Saudi Sheikh in feud with casino over '£2 million gambling debt'

Saudi Sheikh who owns £45m London mansion is locked in a feud with exclusive Mayfair casino over ‘£2 million gambling debt’

  • Sheikh Salah Hamdan Al Balawi is accused of failing to settle his debt with the Les Ambassadeurs Club which featured in the Bond film Dr. No 
  • The Sheikh’s global assets were frozen in February but on Friday the freezing order was lifted in the High Court
  • Judge Mr Justice Freedman said given the Sheikh’s wealth there was little chance of the casino not being able to retrieve sums

Sheikh Salah Hamdan Al Balawi is accused of failing to settle what the Les Ambassadeurs Club, off Park Lane, has claimed is a £2 million debt

A Saudi Sheikh estimated to have assets of more than £100 million is locked in a alleged gambling debt dispute with an exclusive London casino which featured in the Bond film Dr No. 

Sheikh Salah Hamdan Al Balawi is accused of failing to settle what the Les Ambassadeurs Club, off Park Lane, has claimed is a £2 million debt.

The dispute has reached the High Court where on Friday a judge removed a freezing order on the Sheikh’s global assets which was imposed in February. 

The order was enforced after the casino said the Sheikh had ‘gone to ground’ after his cheques bounced in September last year and claimed it tried unsuccessfully to contact the Sheikh once the cheques had bounced, as reported by The Evening Standard.  

However, on Friday, the worldwide freezing order was discharged by the judge, while the dispute over the alleged debt continues. 

The Sheikh, 52, whose company SAB Ventures owns a £45 million mansion in Carlton House Terrace, which had been bought in 2017 from The Queen’s Crown Estate, had fought the freezing order and contended ‘that the debts comprise illegal gambling debts’, said Mr Justice Freedman. 

The casino had argued:  ‘Despite a promise of payment from Mr Al Balawi it never materializes and he ultimately goes to ground.’ 

The Sheikh, who says he and his wife have culminated assets of more than £100 million through their companies, accepted responsibility for the cheques not clearing but says he warned the Les Ambassadeurs Club (pictured above) that would happen

‘It is the combination of Mr Al Balawi failure to pay, coupled with his silence and apparent going to ground in Saudi Arabia, combined with a jurisdiction that is hostile to gaming debts and in which a relevant order of the English court would not be enforced that justifies the making of the (freezing) order,’ the casino said.

It added that the Sheikh had gone to Saudi Arabia, ‘where such debts…are completely unenforceable.’  

The Sheikh, who says he and his wife have culminated assets of more than £100 million through their companies, accepted responsibility for the cheques not clearing but says he warned the casino that would happen.

He added he had previously been suspended from the casino over unpaid debts but was reinstated once they were settled.  

He also denied that he had ‘gone to ground’ and said he regularly travels between Saudi Arabia and London and had not picked up the initial communications from the casino.

The court heard the Sheikh was a ‘significant player’ at the casino since signing up as a member in 1993. He is said to have bought around £14 million of gaming chips and sustained losses of around £5 million.   

In his ruling, Mr Justice Freedman said casino staff know the Sheikh is very wealthy and had visited his home in Carlton House Terrace.

He said Sheikh had not been ‘frank’ about the state of his debts to other casinos, but that given his wealth and ties to London and Jersey there was little risk of that the casino wouldn’t be able to retrieve its money.

The judge also found that the casino had not fully informed the court about the value of the property in Carlton House Terrace, while the phrase ‘gone to ground’ could have been misleading about the Sheikh’s position.  

Mr Al Balawi’s company website, SAB Group, describes him as the Chairman of SAB Holding and a world leading entrepreneur.

He has a raft of companies operating in the Middle East along with an investment arm, SAB Investment, that ‘has created market defining businesses in the Communications. Logistics, Retail, Real Estate, Medical, Travel, Construction and Luxury goods sectors.’ 

‘Operationally focused the Group provides strong, commercial and sound, ethically led support for business expansion throughout the world,’ it adds.

Sheikh Salah Hamdan Al Belawi’s partnerships include: TNT, Intel, B&B Italia, Newscorp, Microsoft and other leading Media partners including MBC. 

The site lists construction projects, project development, engineering & project management and facility management as the company’s core services.  

The gambling dispute continues. 

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