Saudi executive in £2m dispute with London casino

The businessman has connections to one of London’s most exclusive addresses

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (8915551a)
Les Ambassadeurs Casino in Mayfair
Les Ambassadeurs Casino in Mayfair, London, UK - 04 Jul 2017
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A multimillionaire Saudi businessman has overturned a worldwide freezing order on his assets in a dispute with one of London’s most famous casinos over an alleged £2 million (Dh9m) gambling debt.

Sheikh Salah Hamdan Albluewi, whose company owns a £45m property in the capital, lost about £5m during his 26-year membership of Les Ambassadeurs Club in London’s Mayfair district, according to court documents.

The freezing order was granted over Mr Albluewi’s alleged £2m debt after 17 cheques handed over to casino management were dishonoured and management claimed he ultimately went to ground as they pursued payment.

The casino sought the freezing order because of concerns that he would move assets out of the UK and would return to Saudi Arabia where the debt could not be enforced.

The businessman claimed that he did not “go to ground” after he was contacted by the casino in September last year but always returned to Saudi Arabia after near annual summer trips to London.

The High Court judge, Mr Justice Freedman, said that Mr Albluewi had substantial connections with London.

In his ruling on Friday that lifted the freezing order, the judge said: “All of this is contrary to a conclusion that he will remove all his assets to Saudi Arabia.”

The casino and members' club, known as 'Les A', claims to have one of the "most exclusive and sought-after casino memberships". It featured in the James Bond movie Dr No and was used by The Beatles for their 1964 movie A Hard Day's Night.

Mr Albluewi, who spends most of the year in Saudi Arabia, “participated in gaming to a significant extent” on his visits to London, making more than 150 visits over the years, court documents show. The casino did not allege dishonesty against the businessman, who had bought £14m in gambling chips over the years from the club.

Mr Albluewi successfully contested the freezing order after showing that he had significant ties to the UK and that his wealth meant that he was able to pay any outstanding debts. He had claimed that the “debts comprise illegal gambling debts”.

He has an exclusive property in Carlton House Terrace, close to Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth.

The businessman’s Jersey-based company SAB Ventures bought the property in 2017 for £45m and it is currently undergoing £5.5m of renovations.

The New York Times described the property in 2016 "as majestic as anyone can aspire to without actually living in a palace".

SAB Ventures and two other companies which the businessman owns were valued at about £100 million, according to court documents. He had company offices in Jeddah, Cairo, London and Dubai, his website said.

The lifting of the order did not resolve the £2m dispute. SAB Holding and the casino have both been contacted for comment.