Simmons defends Abu Dhabi bank against gambling claims

Simmons & Simmons has defended National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) against claims that it was liable for a gambler’s £100m of debts.

Grosvenor Casinos claimed that NBAD had extended credit to Wealthy Middle-Eastern businessman Mr Ahmed Al-Reyaysa, who incurred the debts at one of its London casinos.

Al-Reyaysa gambled £99m and lost over £18m at the Clermont Club in Mayfair in an eight week period from December 1999 to February 2000. Two of his cheques, totalling almost £7m, were unpaid.

Grosvenor had obtained judgment against Al-Reyaysa for payment of the unpaid cheques to the value of £6.68m, but was unable to enforce the judgment against the gambler.

Represented by London firm City Law, it then turned its case against NBAD, claiming that the casino had extended credit to the gambler based on the strength of telephone discussions between a NBAD employee in Ajman, a Gulf emirate, and its bankers in London, NatWest.

At London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Flaux dismissed Grosvenor’s claims.

The Simmons team acting for the bank was led by financial litigation partner Jonathan Kelly, who said: “NBAD has vigorously defended itself since proceedings were first threatened by the casino in 2003. The bank’s robust approach has been vindicated.”

Grosvenor’s case centered on the understanding of the NBAD employee in Ajman of what Grosvenor called a “paid” answer. Flaux J concluded that the NBAD employee had acted honestly and that the evidence pointed to a misunderstanding between NBAD and NatWest in that the NBAD employee was expressing his genuine belief that funds would be received into the gambler’s account as they had been previously.

The misunderstanding arose because the employee was not a native English speaker and the instructions from NatWest were ambiguous, Simmons argued, and “paid” is not an industry term in international banking.

Simmons instructed Stephen Auld QC of One Essex Court.

The City Law team was led by partner Helen Mulcahy, who instructed Stephen Philips QC of Three Verulam Buildings.