Iranian-American aviation magnate ordered to pay $8m after losing RAK fraud case

Farhad Azima was told he could not appeal decision after losing London courtroom battle with northern emirate’s sovereign wealth fund

Farhad Azima has been embroiled in a legal battle with Rakia after their relationship turned sour. AP
Farhad Azima has been embroiled in a legal battle with Rakia after their relationship turned sour. AP

An Iranian-American aviation tycoon faces a bill of more than $8 million (Dh29.4m) after losing a bitter fraud and bribery legal battle with the sovereign wealth fund of Ras Al Khaimah.

Farhad Azima was ordered on Friday to pay costs and interest that will double the $4.1m damages bill he faces after a judge found against him in May over a business dispute with the fund.

Mr Azima was told he had six weeks to pay the bulk of the funds after a judge told him he had given evidence “which I found to be dishonest”.

The judge said that Mr Azima could not appeal his ruling and that he had little prospect of success.

A statement from the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority said “this decision is another victory in this fight against fraud.”

“The disgraced US airline operator ... At a trial in London earlier this year ... was found to have made fraudulent misrepresentations, bribed a public official and conspired to defraud Rakia."

“The Government of Ras Al Khaimah is continuing to recover stolen assets of the Emirate. It is committed to bringing to justice those who have misappropriated public funds from the Emirate and its people," Rakia said.

Mr Azima, who lives in Kansas in the United States, is understood to have sold assets and properties to fight the case. He also put up for auction a Concorde jet nose cone that was displayed in a glass hangar in his garden.

The case was part of a broader battle centred on reputed losses of some $2 billion while Rakia was under the control of Khater Massaad, a Swiss-Lebanese citizen and a close associate of Mr Azima.

During his seven years as chief executive, Mr Massaad poured $2 billion of government funds into overseas acquisitions.

In late 2012 the fund found that he had “perpetrated systematic and wide-ranging frauds” and was responsible for losses of $2 billion, the London court heard.

Mr Massaad is currently in Saudi Arabia and is wanted by the UAE, which found him guilty of financial crimes during trials held in his absence.

Lawyers for Rakia claim that Mr Massaad engaged his close friend and associate Mr Azima to “wage war on the RAK Investment Authority” after 2012 as part of the long-running struggle. Mr Azima had denied the claim.

During the trial, lawyers for Rakia had cited documents leaked on the internet after a hack of Mr Azima’s electronic devices.

Updated: July 18, 2020 11:17 AM

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