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January 12, 2019

Arab Sheikh wins £35m Bollywood case

National

January 12, 2019

LONDON: A wealthy Bahraini royal family sheikh has won a bitter High Court battle over claims he agreed to pay £35 million to be introduced to his Bollywood “idols” -- including Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh and Aishwarya Rai.

Egyptian businessman Ahmed Adel Abdallah Ahmed claimed Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family and a distant cousin of the King of Bahrain, exclusively hired him to arrange meetings with 26 Indian film stars. During the trial at the London High Court, Ahmed argued that they had reached a legally binding agreement in a January 2016 phone call, but Sheikh Hamad denied that any agreement had been reached and said he thought he had a “genuine bond of friendship” with Mr Ahmed.

Giving his judgment in London on Friday, Mr Justice Jacobs dismissed the claim, finding that there were “simply too many inconsistencies and improbabilities for the case advanced by Mr Ahmed to be accepted.” The judge said, “I reject Mr Ahmed’s account of the phone conversation on 7 January 2016, and I reject his case that there was any agreement on the terms alleged.”

In a statement after the ruling, Sheikh Hamad said, “I am very pleased with today’s judgment. It was with a heavy heart that I was forced to defend myself against this claim, since I had considered Mr Ahmed to be a friend whom I trusted and had always treated him with generosity and kindness. Nonetheless, I have never wavered in my belief that the claim was completely unfounded and I am glad that the court has found in my favour and dismissed the claim in its entirety.

“At a hearing in November, Mr Ahmed's lawyers said Sheikh Hamad had a “lifelong passionate interest” in Bollywood and an “unbridled desire” to meet its stars, including Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh and Aishwarya Rai.

His barrister Stephen Nathan QC said access to such stars is “not easily achieved”, but that Mr Ahmed and his company CBSC Events & Exhibition and Conference Organisers were able to deliver it “at a price”.

Mr Nathan said photographs of the encounters showed the sheikh “happy and relaxed” with a star, giving out “expensive presents” he had bought from Harrods. But, he told the court, “despite the superficial appearance of good-natured social interaction, these were artificial events that had to be stage-managed and paid for.” Ahmed claimed that, during a phone conversation when Sheikh Hamad was in London in January 2016, they made an “oral agreement” that he would be paid more than £1 million for each meeting, plus a bonus of more than £350,000 after every third meeting.

But Sheikh Hamad contended that the alleged arrangement was “entirely fictitious”, with his lawyers submitting that the idea he had entered into an “exclusive agreement” with Mr Ahmed was “absurd, verging on the grotesque”.

Mr Hochhauser described Mr Ahmed’s claim as “an unjustified attempt to exploit the vulnerability and extreme generosity of the defendant by seeking to characterise a relationship of trust and friendship as a cold, commercial relationship between two businessmen”.

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