The world’s largest, most expensive billion dollar yacht, The Azzam, has spent the summer transiting the world’s seas as usual, presently leaving Gibraltar towards the Atlantic Ocean.
One would have assumed this plaything was at the disposal of its owner, Sheikh Khalifa, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the Emirates and that it would be he who was directing its travels and perhaps entertaining his guests on the present cruise.
However, a London court case has just thrown up details of what would appear to be an astonishing state of affairs, whereby it is alleged that control of this fabulously wealthy ruler’s private fortune has passed into the sole authority of his younger half brother, Sheikh Mansour, famously known as the owner of the mega-spending Manchester City Football Club.
Sheikh Khalifa, already known to be reclusive, was voted back as President of the Emirates just last year for a further five year term. But, it has emerged during the course of the legal action, which was purportedly launched on his behalf, that following a stroke in 2014 he may have become sadly incapacitated to the point of being unable to manage his own affairs.
It raises interesting questions, therefore, as to why he has been re-elected to run the country and who is the real power behind the throne? Crown Prince Mohammed (Mansour’s older brother) is regarded as de facto ruler of the state, so why has it not been officially recognised by the rest of the ruling family and are this extended clan all happy to see Khalifa’s entire personal fortune (estimated to exceed $18 billion) pass out of his hands in such a way?
Lawyers, who say they are acting for Sheikh Khalifa in his capacity as the ultimate beneficial owner of 24 off-shore companies holding property in London valued in excess of £5 billion, have claimed what appears to be the official position:
“Sheikh Khalifa is not suffering from any “mental incapacity”; nor has he suffered from such incapacity at any time since January 2014 as alleged.”
On the other hand, the lawyers have argued that any details of the ruler’s private health or his instructions on the case, which would help to prove their point, are ‘private’, “irrelevant” and ’embarrassing’ and ought not to be disclosed.
However, the London property agents Lancer who are being sued over the level of their fees, say these matters lie at the heart of their defence, since they believe that others and not Sheikh Khalifa are behind the litigation for motives of their own, which include what they describe as “competition amongst family members for control of his assets”. They have gone on to claim:
“It is to be inferred that Sheikh Khalifa’s extended family members and/or their agents are concealing his incapacity and falsely representing his authorisation and approval of various matters, including … instructions to commence the present proceedings”
The judge has agreed with the defence that proof of Khalifa’s capacity must be brought, which means that further information about just how affected the Sheikh has been and how decisions are now being taken at the highest levels in Abu Dhabi should cease to be such a secret very soon.
The extraordinary details of this case (first cited in SR’s previous article) now focus on the existence of a document signed in the name of Sheikh Khalifa, but bearing an alleged false signature!
The document, dated June 1st 2015, is of the highest significance because in it the Sheikh purportedly hands absolute control of all his worldly wealth and possessions to a ‘Committee’ totally controlled by Sheikh Mansour.
However, the signature has turned out not to be that of Sheikh Khalifa himself, as is notarised, but that of Mansour’s older blood brother the powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed.
In response to persistent questions by the defence the claimants’ lawyers have now conceded that on occasion Khalifa does not sign his own documents, but has them signed “in his presence” at his “expressed approval” by an “authorised representative”:
“All decrees, declarations and other decisions issued by Sheikh Khalifa or in his name since January 2014 have been formally notarised by the Notary Public of Abu Dhabi and generally signed by Sheikh Khalifa himself; where such decisions have not been signed by Sheikh Khalifa himself, they have been expressly approved by Sheikh Khalifa and signed by an authorised representative of Sheikh Khalifa in his presence.” [Reply to the Defence May 27th 2020]
It is a statement that begs some key questions, including why the document handing over his worldly wealth did not cite that it had been signed ON BEHALF of Sheikh Khalifa rather than purporting that it had in fact been signed by him?
Neither do the claimants’ lawyers seek to explain on what basis the person who signed instead (the Crown Prince in this case) is to be considered “an authorised representative”?
The whole point of gaining a signature is to verify approval, after all, therefore by what other means do these lawyers think they can prove the document was “expressly approved” by Khalifa or was even signed in his presence?
Indeed, judging by these own words of the legal team representing the Abu Dhabi litigants, some very untoward and unusual steps were taken to notarise this crucial document handing over charge of everything owned by one of the world’s richest men, including the world’s largest super-yacht and billions of dollars worth of global property and business assets.
The only explanation would seem to be that a prior, so far un-referred to document exists that had already handed Power of Attorney over the ruler’s affairs to Crown Prince Mohammed, who then chose to put the control of Khalifa’s wealth into the trusted hands of his younger brother, Sheikh Mansour.
How many in Abu Dhabi know about this, one might ask, and has the same secret transfer also been made regarding Khalifa’s governing powers as well?
It seems strange that such huge and weighty matters of state should have slid out in such a way thanks to a relatively minor dispute over £30 million in property fees in London, but there is a saying “the truth will out”.
In a final interesting twist to the tale, investigations by Sarawak Report have ascertained that the ownership of all the 24 BVI property companies cited in this case were transferred after Khalifa ceded his control, away from his direct beneficial ownership and into the ownership of his Office of Presidential affairs.
This would seem to suggest that when Khalifa’s successor does eventually take over as the new ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the Emirates, all of that wealth will be controlled by his successor, rather than, for example, being distributed amongst the sons and family members of Sheikh Khalifa.
One wonders who that successor might turn out to be?