(photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
LONDON - Two Saudi princes on Tuesday sought to extricate
themselves from a London legal battle with a Jordanian businessman who accuses
them of laundering money for Hezbollah, an allegation their lawyer called
Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a brother of Saudi
Arabia's King Abdullah, and his son Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal, had previously
argued they had sovereign immunity from suit but the courts rejected that
They also tried to keep details of the case secret on the grounds
that making the allegations public would damage Saudi relations with Britain and
the United States, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but that
failed in the Court of Appeal last week.
The Hezbollah allegation is
likely to raise concern in Saudi Arabia, because Hezbollah is backed by foe
Iran, and Hezbollah fighters are supporting President Bashar Assad in Syria
while Saudi Arabia is a major backer of rebel forces.
John Wardell, a
lawyer for the princes, told the High Court on Tuesday that Faisal Almhairat, an
estranged business partner of Prince Abdulaziz, had fabricated "incredible
tales" that were "fanciful", and argued that his clients should not be parties
to the case at all.
He said Global Torch - the British Virgin Island
company the younger prince is said to control - and not the princes should be
the party at the trial when it comes to court in January.Claims and counter-claims
The complex legal dispute stems from a tussle between Prince
Abdulaziz and Almhairat over control of Fi Call Limited, a joint venture
registered in London in 2009 and aimed at developing software to allow free
calls over the Internet.
Global Torch, a shareholder in Fi Call,
initiated the court proceedings, and Almhairat responded with several
counter-claims about the princes. None of the main individuals involved has
Judge Geoffrey Vos said the allegations may seem
"far-fetched" but that did not mean they were untrue. He said it would be for a
trial judge to decide that.
In a court document filed in December 2011
and seen by Reuters, Almhairat says Prince Abdulaziz instigated a deal in Beirut
in March 2010 whereby Fi Call issued a $5 million bank guarantee to a Hezbollah
intermediary named as Abdul Razzak.
Almhairat says this was part of a
money-laundering arrangement that earned Prince Abdulaziz $5 million, and that
when Almhairat questioned the deal he was threatened with death.
with whoever we want to deal with, whether it's Hezbollah, the Mafia or even the
Jews," Prince Abdulaziz was quoted as saying in a phone call to
"Do as you are instructed. Otherwise your head will be at my
feet without your body," the prince was alleged to have said.
has said he recorded conversations with the princes on his telephone and made
transcripts of what was said, but that the recordings were later
The document also quotes Prince Mishal telling Almhairat during a
separate conversation at a Dubai hotel in April 2011 that he was involved in
Prince Mishal, 86, is a former defence minister and now
chairs the Allegiance Council that will oversee the succession to the Saudi
"You know that I move huge amounts of money for people like our
friends the Mubaraks. We've been doing this business for years. We can move
money for everyone, including the Iranians, because nobody dares to challenge
us," Prince Mishal was quoted as saying by Almhairat.
In the document,
Almhairat also alleges that in early 2011, Prince Abdulaziz arranged for Fi Call
to pay $202,000 for a chartered flight from Nairobi to Amman, supposedly to
transport the prince's camping equipment.
Almhairat says he discovered
the true purpose was to smuggle minerals and precious stones from Congo worth
hundreds of millions of dollars for the benefit of Prince Abdulaziz and possibly
The hearing, scheduled to last three days, continues.