Teacher Stern triumphs against Mishcon’s Saudi prince in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeal brought by a Saudi prince over a series of court sanctions in relation to his case against a former shareholder, handing a win to Teacher Stern just months after taking over the mandate from Howard Kennedy. 

HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud brought the appeal after failing to reverse a series of orders called for him to personally sign a witness statement and pay $7.7m into the court. The disputed orders were made by Mr Justice Vox, Mr Justice Norris and Mr Justice Mann last year and resulted in the prince being debarred, a punishment he argued was unjust and disproportionate (9 September 2014).

But today the Supreme Court upheld the decisions of Vos J, Norris J and Mann J, ruling that the decisions were “individually unassailable”. Giving the lead judgment Lord Neuberger disagreed with the prince’s argument that the impact of the orders was disproportionate and said that sanctions were the necessary and automatic consequence of disobedience in the courts (15 January 2014).

The court dismissed the appeal by a majority of four to one with Neuberger SCJ giving the main judgment and Lord Clarke dissenting.

It marks another defeat for the prince’s ever-changing counsel, which has altered dramatically since the case first launched in 2011. He originally turned to Clifford Chance partner Ian Roxborough to bring his claim of unfair predujuce against Apex, a fellow shareholder in telecoms company Fi Call (21 March 2013).

After the High Court threw out the prince’s attempt to have the case heard in private, he replaced Roxborough with Irwin Mitchell partner Jeremy Marshall. In September this year the line-up changed again when Mishcon de Reya partner Jarret Brown took up the mandate.

Apex has now also switched counsel, from Howard Kennedy partners Steven Morris and Louise Bennett to Teacher Stern partner Jack Rabinowicz.

The fight broke out four years ago when Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a former defence minister, brother of King Abdullah and chairman of the country’s influential allegiance council, and his son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal bin Al Saud, invested in telecoms company Fi Call.

The princes invested through their company Apex Global Management along with fellow investor Faisal Almhairat and later blamed him for the breakdown of the company, as well as accusing him of fraud and terrorist funding. That case remains unsettled, along with Almhairat’s claim that the prince owes $6m, which the prince disputes. 

However he has now reached the end of the road in battling the court-ordered sanctoins placed upon him for disobedience. Today Neuberger said: “The importance of litigants obeying court orders is self-evident and if the disobedience continues notwithstanding the imposition of a sanction, the enforcement of the sanction is almost inevitable.” 

The legal line-up

For the appellant HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Abdulaziz al Saud

4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC and Daniel Saoul and Michael Ryan instructed by Mishcon de Reya partner Jarret Brown

For the respondent Apex Global Management & Anors

Serle Court’s Daniel Lightman and Thomas Elias instructed by Teacher Stern partner Jack Rabinowicz