The chief executive of the Saudi conglomerate at the center of the largest trial ever to be held in the Cayman Islands said Monday he was looking forward to the case finally being argued in court.
Speaking as the trial got off to a false start Monday, Simon Charlton, the acting CEO of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers, said the company, which claims it was the victim of a multi-billion dollar fraud, was attempting to recover substantial funds to repay its creditors.
“It has always been our case that money was misappropriated and we want to recover that money,” he said.
The case, which is expected to last seven months, was adjourned for 24 hours on Monday to allow the legal teams involved to sort out some final “housekeeping issues.” Around 60 lawyers had gathered in a substantially remodeled courtroom at Kirk House in anticipation of the opening. The courtroom has been fitted out with scores of computer monitors and lined with shelves to accommodate an unprecedented number of documents to be used as exhibits.
The case revolves around claims from Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers that Maan Al Sanea, who married into the family and managed its financial services businesses, engaged in massive unauthorized borrowing, siphoning off proceeds to his own companies, many of them registered in the Cayman Islands.
AHAB is seeking damages from Al Sanea and his companies, which it says were unjustly enriched as a result of his fraudulent schemes. The claims are contested by Al Sanea, as well as by the liquidators of the Cayman Islands-registered companies.
Brett Walter, general counsel for AHAB, said,
“We filed this case in 2009. Seven years later, there has been an immense amount of preparation, dozens of lawyers and tens of millions of dollars just to get where we are today.
“There has been a lot of litigation already, just none of it on the merits. This is the point at which we will start hearing about who is right and who is wrong on the facts.”
He said AHAB had chosen to bring the case in the Cayman Islands, because it has a “transparent legal system.” Mr. Charlton said the trial was a huge logistical challenge.
“There are a lot of people involved, a lot of interest, a lot of money has been spent and there is a lot at stake,” he said. “It is a big trial, possibly one of the largest in Cayman. It was a bit of a false start today but hopefully tomorrow we will kick off and get the chance to put our case forward.
“Both sides have their arguments. There is a lot of technology in the courtroom. I am interested to see how it works. It is a unique trial. We have got video evidence coming in from Saudi Arabia, we’ve got multiple witnesses, we’ve got different languages, millions of documents; just the logistics of managing this are huge and I give credit to the chief justice and the court system for taking it on. It is going to be a long process.”
Mr. Charlton said the conglomerate, which operates numerous businesses across all sectors of the Saudi economy, from financial services to hotels, food and beverage distribution and oil and gas, was still in the midst of negotiations about repayments to its creditors.
“I am hopeful later this week we will be making an announcement about the bank settlement process on our side,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and diligently for the past two-and-a-quarter years to negotiate a settlement with 100 plus banks on our side.
“The money we are seeking to recover here is not for the Algosaibi family, it is for the benefit of our claimants and creditors. It is important we recover that money so we can fulfil our obligations under the settlements we propose for the banks.”