Saudi Arabia urges Al Gosaibi creditors to file claims

The Saudi Arabian government has urged local creditors to the troubled Al Gosaibi family to enter claims against the fam­ily or be ruled out of any settlement process.

On the orders of a special tribunal in the Al Gosaibi’s headquarters of Al Khobar, Ahmed Hamed Al Gosaibi and Brothers (Ahab), the partnership that runs the family conglomerate, placed advertisements in Saudi papers asking potential claimants to come forward.

The wording of the ads makes it clear that, unless Saudi banks – owed about US$2 billion by the family – agree to be part of the process, any further claim will not be considered. “Please note that the distribution of creditor funds will be limited only to the applications made in accordance with [Saudi legislation governing enforcement of legal decisions],” said the ads in three newspapers.

It is a significant development in the seven years of battle between the Al Gosaibis and Maan Al Sanea, the estranged member of the family who is also facing multibillion-dollar creditor claims in the kingdom.

Ahab has reached a deal with most of its international creditors – owed about $4bn – but Saudi banks have resisted pressure to join that settlement, relying instead on legal action in the country to seize Ahab assets.

The establishment of the Al Khobar tribunal, revealed in The National last month, is regarded as a sign that the Saudi authorities are at last tiring of the damaging dispute, which they fear could put further pressure on their credit ratings in international debt markets.

Simon Charlton, the acting chief executive of Ahab in charge of its restructuring, said the appointment of the tribunal was a “positive step forward” in the long-running dispute.

“Ahab has begun the process of acknowledging debts against it for the limited purposes of the settlement, which we believe will allow us to move forward with increased momentum,” he said.

Ahab has agreed with claimants to repay 25 cents for each dollar of debt, backed by assets, rising to a possible 50 cents on recovery of assets in actions against Mr Al Sanea.

In 2009, the Al Gosaibis accused him of fraud, forgery and theft after the collapse of their businesses, charges Mr Al Sanea has consistently denied and fought in law courts around the world.

Mr Charlton revealed that claimants representing 80 per cent of the total by number and 50 per cent by value had accepted their terms.

Next month, a legal action will begin in the Cayman Islands to recover billions of dollars held there by the liquidators of Mr Al Sanea’s companies. “Ahab already has a judgment against him personally for $2.5bn,” Mr Charlton.

There was no comment from any person connected to Mr Al Sanea.

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