Sheik Down

London Court Told Of Sheikh's Trail of Unpaid Auction Room Debts

Sheik has not fled London, just returned home to avoid the cold, court hears

11.01.12 3:24 PM ET

It's hard to decide which is the best bit of today's court action against a member of the Qatari Royal family  accused in court in London today of having left a trail of eye-watering debts alleged to total some $60m to auction houses around the world, having earlier this year bid for a valuable collection of ancient coins at auction in New York without ever paying up.

The vast sums of money involved? The fact the sheik's laywer denies any contract for sale exists at all?

Or maybe the fact that his lawyer says he has not run away from his debts in London, but simply returned to the middle east because Europe's getting a bit chilly.

Oh, to be a Qatari Royal!

Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani is being sued by dealers who say he has dishonoured his $19.7 million bid for the collection of ancient Greek coins sold at auction in New York in January, the Daily Mail reports.

The Mail also reports on "hotly disputed allegations that Sheikh Saud’s total unpaid bill to worldwide auctioneers and art dealers includes £4.3 million owed to Bonhams, around $42 million owed to Sothebys, and various other sums owed to at least five other auction houses and art dealers."

Saud, 45, 'purchased nearly $20 million worth of coins from the Prospero Collection', regarded as the finest assortment of Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek coins ever assembled, the High Court was told.

Although the dealers have not released the goods, they are naturally insisting that the sheikh should be bound by his bid.

The Mail reports that the dealers’ QC, Jeffrey Gruder, likened Sheikh Saud to an 'inveterate gambler' who could not stop himself spending millions on objects of his desire before walking away from his obligations.

'He bids, wins and then doesn’t pay. One can only conclude that this is a person acting dishonourably and disreputably. He is bidding when he knows he’s not going to be able to pay,' the lawyer claimed.

But the sheikh’s QC, Stephen Rubin, denied suggestions he had run away from his debts in London, saying the sheikh had returned home simply to avoid cold weather in London.

He said the sheikh had been 'trying to pay” for the coins for the past nine months, adding, “There are no doubt timing issues which go to why he cannot pay at the moment, but that’s not a reason to make a freezing order against someone.”

He also said the case against the sheikh was flawed, and the dealers had no 'contract of sale' with the sheik.

The judge reserved his judgment in the case