On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
High Court Rules Lawyer Failed To Transfer $25 Million To Saudi Princess
In mid-July 2022 news emerged of a lawyer who had mismanaged a substantial twenty-five million dollar fund belonging to a Saudi princess.
What Happened In The Case?
The lawyer was a partner in a leading City firm and was instructed to administer the fund belonging to the member of Saudi Arabian Royal Family via a power of attorney for around seven years. Following a successful tenure administering the Arabian Princess’ fund a Settlement Agreement was agreed between the business manager and princess’s lawyer. The gentleman had represented the princess and sent correspondence, which had been signed by the princess. In the letter he had asked the lawyer to liquidate the princess’s investments and then instructed him to transfer the monies to an account belonging to the brother of the princess, Prince Al Saud.
Did The Lawyer Transfer The Monies?
Normally lawyers would act on the client’s instructions by liquidating the assets and sending the monies over. However, did not happen in this case. The lawyer initially responded and sought further information about the bank account to which the monies were to be paid. However, the stumbling block was the fact that the lawyer appears to have failed to liquidate the assets, transfer the monies or communicate in any way. Due to the lawyer’s behaviour the Prince issued legal proceedings.
What Assets Made Up The Fund And What Did The Lawyer Argue?
During the investigation it transpired that the majority of the twenty-five million dollar fund had been invested in a property in the Montenegrin jurisdiction, a business controlled by the lawyer at the centre of the proceedings and a large boat. The lawyer claimed that the letter signed on behalf of the Saudi princess was a forgery and did not align with the requirements of the Settlement Agreement referred to in the preceding paragraph. The lawyer claimed that he was in fact still responsible for the administration of the fund. He further explained this was due to the fact that he had a small chance of proving that the correspondence was ineffective as a trigger. The lawyer even had the audacity to argue that the Princess’ brother was making an attempt to intercept the princess’s monies.
However, having listened to the evidence the High Court came to the conclusion that the lawyer’s claims could not possibly have been true and in this regard branded them as a ‘fanciful’ attempt to shift the blame. The mere suggestion that the prince was attempting to forge his sister’s signature was given short shrift by the High Court Judge. He found this claim to lack evidence. The main factor persuading the judge that the lawyer’s side of the story did not hold water was his unresponsiveness at the time. The judge concluded that if he was of this belief then he had been given ample opportunity to communicate his views and submit the evidence. If he had done so his evidence would have been assigned more weight by the court. The other factor weighing against the lawyer was the fact that he had sought further information about the bank account the monies should be paid to.
What Did The Princess Say?
Contrary to the evidence put forward by the lawyer, the Princess gave evidence confirming she had capacity to sign the letter, was aware of her actions and had no assistance from the prince.
Lawyer should be ensuring they are:
- checking information in correspondence aligns with any agreements
- communicating with their clients regularly
- taking further instructions on matters
- clarifying their understanding of matters in the case and
- not misleading the court by suggesting foul play without evidence
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Hilborne, Nick – High Court: Ex-City solicitor failed to return $25m fund to Saudi princess - 8 July 2022 - High Court: Ex-City solicitor failed to return $25m fund to Saudi princess - Legal Futures
 Current Awareness: powers of attorney – Inner Temple Library - 8 July 2022 - powers of attorney – Current Awareness (innertemplelibrary.com)
 HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Abdulaziz Al Saud and HRH Princess Deema Bint Sultan Abdulaziz Al Saud v Ronald William Gibbs  EWHC 1052 - HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud And & Anor v Gibbs & Anor  EWHC 1052 (Comm) (28 April 2022) (bailii.org)