Qatar’s royal family faces arrest in Britain after failing to appear in court over $6 billion debt

A member of Qatar’s royal family is arrested and jailed in Britain after failing to appear in court over a $6 billion debt.

Sheikh Fahad Ahmed Bin Mohammed al-Thani is accused of being owed the huge sum due to the collapse of a deal to build luxury resorts in Libya and Europe. An original debt of $900 million has since risen to $6 billion (£4.7 billion), making it believed to be the largest debt owed by an individual in English legal history.

His creditors even turned to Sir Tony Blair to try to reach a settlement with Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, but when that failed they went to the High Court in Manchester to try to get their money back. They claim the sheikh has refused to take part in the English legal proceedings and on Thursday a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

The case is likely to cause serious embarrassment to Qatar’s royal family and risks a diplomatic row with Britain. Al-Thani, 64, is a cousin of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – also known as HBJ – who is a former prime minister and was considered one of the most powerful figures in the region.

The complex dispute centers on a $900 million bond received in 2009 by Fast International Trading Group, a company owned by al-Thani, from the Swifthold Foundation. The money would finance “two potentially lucrative resort developments in Libya,” according to legal documents. One such project – known as the Green City – was intended to create a resort with luxury hotels, golf courses and even a cruise ship terminal on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, according to plans drawn up as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi sought Western investment to bring in. The overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011 put an end to the Green City plan.

Refusal to participate

Lawyers Boies Schiller Flexner, acting on behalf of Swifthold, claim in court papers that al-Thani’s company “failed to meet any of its obligations”, and a year later, in 2010, legal proceedings began to recover the money. Legal documents state: “Mr al-Thani has never interfered with the English proceedings,” adding that he had “refused to engage in these proceedings for a period of more than 13 years.”

Al-Thani, who is believed to have settled in London, had been living in Britain but has since returned to Qatar.

Swifthold engaged Delta Capital Partners, a US-based consultancy specializing in asset recovery and litigation financing, to help get its money back. In 2018, Judge Eyre QC ruled that the $5.92 billion debt was outstanding after interest. Proceedings were also initiated in Qatar, with initial success: a local court ordered al-Thani and Fast Trading to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2019, but Qatar’s Court of Appeal rejected the claim in 2021, which resulted in a bitter blow was for Swifthold and Delta.

Delta has now started circulating a photo of al-Thani to ensure he is “arrested as soon as possible” in case he tries to return to Britain.

Sir Tony’s spokesman said the former prime minister had been approached by a US law firm “to assist in resolving a case involving a Qatari national which, as he recalls, was subject to a British court ruling, but he decided there was nothing he could do”.

It is understood Sir Tony agreed to help and would have received compensation if the case had been settled.

The negotiations were unsuccessful, prompting lawyers for Swifthold, an Anglo-Spanish investment company, to return to the High Court in Manchester to enforce an injunction in a 14-year legal battle.

At the hearing last week, Judge Bird concluded that al-Thani had no intention of appearing in court in Britain and issued a warrant for his arrest. “The order can now be issued to bring the debtor to justice [al-Thani] before a judge so that a decision can be made on the next steps,” he said.

Judge Bird added: “It is clear to me that the defendant will not attend,” he said. “It’s as clear as a pikestaff.”

At a hearing last month in Manchester, Judge Bird found al-Thani in contempt of court and warned that if he did not appear at last week’s hearing he risked being jailed.

‘He left us high and dry’

Christopher DeLise, CEO of Delta, said: “Delta Capital Partners has an extensive network of researchers, private intelligence agencies and operators we work with. We have distributed the photo of Sheikh Fahad al-Thani through this network to ensure that if he sets foot on British soil he can be spotted and arrested as quickly as possible. All of this could have been avoided if Sheikh Fahad did the right thing and cooperated with the court.”

Mr DeLise added: “This is a man from an extremely wealthy background. We have been following him for a number of years. We thought we had a settlement agreement with him and were getting cases from his lawyers. But then he left London and has left us high and dry ever since.”

At Thursday’s hearing in Manchester, Michael Smyth, a lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner, told the court how papers had been sent via email, post and recorded courier to al-Thani’s business address, his lawyers saying they had told the royal family no longer represented. and a PO box connected to Fast International.

In his ruling, the judge said he was “fully satisfied” that lawyers acting on behalf of Swifthold had repeatedly “delivered” legal papers in numerous ways to al-Thani, his lawyers and his company, Fast International.

He was also convinced that al-Thani was not present, despite an Arabic interpreter having attended the hearing.

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