The longest and costliest trial in Cayman’s history could be set for another chapter, after representatives of the Saudi business empire at the center of the case announced plans for an appeal.
The trial, which involved more than 40 lawyers from seven Cayman Islands firms, cost more than $100 million in legal fees and took nearly two years from opening statements to the delivery of the final judgment earlier this month.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie dismissed claims from the Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers conglomerate, known as AHAB, that the collapse of its business empire was the result of a multi-billion dollar fraud perpetrated from within by Maan Al-Sanea, who had married into the family and ran its financial services business.
Rather than being a victim in the enterprise, Chief Justice Smellie decided that AHAB had worked with Mr. Al-Sanea and was the principal architect of what he described as “an enormous, long-standing Ponzi scheme” which defrauded more than 100 banks of “hundreds of billions of dollars.”
AHAB, which instigated the litigation against multiple defendants, including the liquidators of Mr. Al-Sanea’s Cayman Islands companies, in an effort to recoup funds for its creditors, announced Thursday that it would appeal.
“AHAB have filed an appeal against the judgment and will vigorously contest the flawed narrative,” said Simon Charlton, acting CEO of AHAB, in a press statement, Thursday.
He said the court had failed to take into account aspects of AHAB’s evidence and submission, particularly in relation to the partners’ knowledge of Mr. Al-Sanea’s activities and the withdrawals that he made from the company’s Money Exchange business.
AHAB also claims the chief justice reached his conclusions about the partners’ conduct based on inferences, which were not supported by the evidence before the court.
“The court accepted propositions and theories advanced by the defendants that were not put to AHAB’s witnesses during cross-examination and were also not supported by the evidence before the court,” according to the statement.
AHAB’s case was that Mr. Al-Sanea had racked up billions of dollars of unauthorized debt through the Money Exchange, transferring some of the proceeds to his companies in the Cayman Islands.
They claimed the family company partners were not aware of the fraud, which went on for nearly a decade, until the Money Exchange and other businesses operated by Mr. Al Sanea collapsed in 2009, causing AHAB to default on approximately $9 billion dollars of debt.
The chief justice accepted that Mr. Al-Sanea had borrowed huge sums of money that had ultimately been redirected to his own business empire but he said this had been done with the knowledge and authorization of the AHAB partners.
He wrote, “The AHAB partners were willing to allow the massive personal borrowing of Al-Sanea from the Money Exchange to go unchecked because it was quid pro quo for his willingness also to use the Money Exchange to procure fraudulent borrowing for the AHAB partners themselves.”
He added that the Money Exchange had been a “criminal enterprise” from its inception to its collapse and that AHAB had received “enormous benefits” from its illegal borrowing. The total flow of cash through the Money Exchange was approximately US$330 billion, the judgment indicates.