Bollywood-loving sheikh sued over fanboy meetings

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Aug 08, 2017
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The Bahraini sheikh allegedly agreed to pay $42.5 million for audiences with his favourite Bollywood stars, including Shah Rukh Khan

Piyal Adhikary/EPA

Bahraini royalty have to spend their petro-dollars and plentiful leisure time somehow, but one member of the country’s first family is probably wishing he were not such a keen fan of Bollywood.

Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa – a distant cousin of the Gulf country’s king – is set to take a starring role in a drama played out at the High Court in London early next year. The sheikh is being sued by an Egyptian businessman for $42.5 million (£32.6 million) after he allegedly reneged on an oral agreement made at the end of 2015. Ahmed Adel Abdullah Ahmed alleges that the Sheikh agreed to pay the eye-watering fee to meet a galaxy of Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, the 51-year-old sensation known across south Asia as the “Baadshah” or “king of Bollywood”.

Ahmed – according to court submissions an “international businessman” who splits his time between London and Dubai – claims that he had two meetings with the sheikh in Bahrain in December 2015, followed by a telephone conversation when the sheikh was in London in January last year. The businessman maintains that the sheikh – who has instructed the heavyweight City of London law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in the dispute – agreed that he would act as the Bahraini’s exclusive agent, arranging for him to meet with various Bollywood film stars. The deal, according to the court claim, was that the Sheikh would spend between 15 and 25 minutes with his various idols, paying Mr Ahmed an arrangement fee of $1.5 million per meeting, with a bonus of $500,000 for every third meeting.

So far, the crucial point in the dispute has been that January 2016 phone conversation. The sheikh’s first reaction to the lawsuit issued at the High Court was an attempt to shift the dispute from London to Bahrain. But Mr Justice Cooke has already handed the sheikh his first courtroom disappointment by ruling that “the action must be allowed to continue in this jurisdiction”.

Ahmed’s legal team from the London law firm Zaiwalla & Co anticipate that the next stage in the case will be a pre-trial hearing sometime before the end of the year with the curtain rising on the main show early in 2018.

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