Saudi princes refused diplomatic immunity by Vos J

Mr Justice Vos has refused two Saudi princes permission to use diplomatic immunity to avoid a costly court battle in London’s High Court.

Clifford Chance partner Iain Roxborough instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Timothy Otty QC to lead the case for HRH Prince Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Al Saud. They claimed to be members of the household of King Abdullah and, therefore, that they were entitled to immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978.

The ruling comes just weeks after Mr Justice Morgan refused to allow the case to be heard in camera after arguments from the defendants that the case could damage relations between the UK and Saudi (20 February 2013).

Details of the case remain unclear pending the outcome of an appeal on these latest applications from the defendants.

The claim was launched by Apex Global Management, which is represented by HowardKennedyFSI partner Steven Morris who instructed Blackstone’s Robert Howe QC and Daniel Lightman of Serle Court, who was in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2013.

As well as the princes, BVI-based Global Torch is named as a defendant. Prince Abdulaziz has a 50 percent stake in the company.

In his ruling Vos J said that there had been “significant problems” with the evidence produced by the defendant team as the princes had declined to give any witness statement or give material to their legal team to submit witness evidence on their behalf.

The judge stated: “In broad terms the evidence as to the princes’ position in Saudi Arabia is almost entirely within their own knowledge. And it was common ground that the burden of proving that they are entitled to sovereign immunity rested upon them.

“Yet despite this burden, the princes seem to have adopted a habit of producing evidence at the very last moment before each hearing (and ulimately after their last hearing). Moreover, the evidence that they have produced has, to put it at its lowest, evolved.”

The facts of the case, he concluded, did not support the application.

Morris commented: “From the outset of these proceedings, my clients have always had the utmost confidence in, and respect for, the integrity of the English judicial system; that confidence has been vindicated by the judgment of Mr Justice Vos.”

It is understood that the two princes will appeal the ruling.