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Lawsuit against Bahrain royal who ‘broke agreement’ to meet Bollywood stars

People familiar with the case said Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa, believed to be in his fifties, had a long-standing fascination with Bollywood movies and stars since he was brought up by an Indian nanny

world Updated: Nov 07, 2018 12:31 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa,Bahrain,Bahrain royal
A view of the diplomatic area in Manama, Bahrain.(REUTERS)

Britain’s high court will next week begin hearing an Egyptian businessman’s lawsuit against a member of Bahrain’s royal family for allegedly reneging on a deal to pay $1.5 million per meeting to spend time with top Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.

According to court documents seen by HT, Ahmed Adel Abdallah Ahmed is seeking $42.5 million from Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa, a distant cousin of the king of Bahrain and nephew of the deputy prime minister, for allegedly ending an exclusive agreement to set up meetings with 26 stars – ranging from Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt to Anil Kapoor.

The documents filed in the UK high court of justice Jeremy Cooke by Ahmed’s counsel say that the businessman set up one-on-one meetings between the Sheikh and Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan at Mumbai’s St Regis Hotel on January 16, 2016, and February 11, 2016.

Two meetings were also arranged between the Sheikh and Ranveer Singh at Mina al-Salam Hotel in Dubai on March 6 and 17, 2016, and Aditya Roy Kapoor at the same hotel on March 16, 2016.

The papers state the Sheikh agreed to pay $1.5 million per meeting and a bonus of $500,000 for every third meeting.

They add that the Sheikh paid $4 million to Ahmed, who lives in Dubai, through a combination of cash and bank transfers but allege payments of $8.5 million were outstanding.

People familiar with the case said Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa, believed to be in his fifties, had a long-standing fascination with Bollywood movies and stars since he was brought up by an Indian nanny.

The meetings, organised under an oral agreement struck by Ahmed and the Sheikh during a conversation in London in January 2016, were to last between 15 and 25 minutes, according to the papers.

The Sheikh also signed three “special authorisation bonds” asking Ahmed to arrange meetings for him with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and other Bollywood stars during January March 2016.

The papers allege that the Sheikh also asked Ahmed’s firm, CBSC Events & Exhibition and Conference Organizers, to sponsor a film awards event in Dubai in March 2016 so that the Sheikh could attend the function, meet Indian stars, and present at least one award.

However, the papers allege that the Sheikh subsequently refused to pay a promised amount of $500,000 for the film awards event and also cancelled planned meetings with Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan in April 2016.

The Sheikh’s counsel argued an English court didn’t have jurisdiction as he wasn’t a resident of the UK and also challenged the claim of a legally binding agreement. However, the court concluded it could hear the matter as the oral agreement was concluded in London.

The court will hear arguments by both sides over five days from November 12, during which the two parties are also expected to be cross-examined.

Ahmed claimed he is owed $42.5 million to compensate for loss of expected earnings and the money he was owed for sponsoring the film awards event.

According to The Independent, the Sheikh’s defence statement submitted to the court said he pulled out of the deal after Ahmed “started to put unfair pressure” on him, “making unwarranted demands for very large sums of money and seeking to arrange meetings which were not convenient”.

He said he was “very enthusiastic” about meeting Bollywood stars after being initially told by Ahmed that it would cost about $50,000 per actor. However, the Sheikh said Ahmed later told him it would cost about $500,000 to meet the most well-known stars.

The Sheikh said he paid $3.4 million to spend time with four stars before telling Ahmed in April 2016 that he didn’t want him to arrange further meetings.

Pavani Reddy, managing partner of law firm Zaiwalla & Co, which is representing Ahmed, said: “This is an interesting case and involves oral agreements reached in London between two parties from Middle East, concerning arranging meetings with famous Bollywood stars.”

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 09:38 IST