Bahraini royal sued for failing to pay US$35 million to meet his ‘Bollywood idols’
- London court hears Sheikh Khalifa had agreed to make payments to a third party
- Sheikh met four stars including Shah Rukh Khan, who is also known as SRK and referred to in the media as the ‘King of Bollywood’
A super-wealthy member of the Bahraini royal family has been accused of reneging on a promise to pay US$35 million to meet 26 Bollywood stars for whom he had an “unbridled desire and fantasy”.
A London court heard that Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa, a cousin of the billionaire king of Bahrain and nephew of the country’s deputy prime minister, had agreed to pay an Egyptian middle man US$1.5 million for setting up each meeting plus a bonus payment of US$500,000 for each third meeting.
The middle man, Ahmed Adel Abdallah Ahmed, is suing the sheikh claiming that he pulled out of the deal after handing over just US$3 million.
Ahmed is suing for breach of contract and US$20.9 million in damages.
Sheikh Khalifa denies promising to pay millions to meet the Bollywood stars, including Miss World 1994 Aishwarya Rai and Slumdog Millionaire star Anil Kapoor.
He admits he was “very enthusiastic at the prospect” of meeting the actors but said he expected to be charged “$30,000 to $50,000 for private meetings”.
“I am deeply disappointed that someone whom I had come to think of as a good friend is bringing this claim,” the Sheikh said in a prepared statement.
“I was trusting when Ahmed offered to introduce me to my Bollywood idols. I have since been pursued by Ahmed for enormous sums of money, despite having been very generous to him in the past. I do not accept that there was ever any contractual arrangement between us, let alone one that was exclusive and could never be terminated. I believe this claim has no merit, and I shall defend it.”
The sheikh is expected to be called on Thursday to give evidence to the High Court and explain his overwhelming desire to meet the Bollywood stars.
In court papers, he is alleged to have agreed to pay the huge sums for the meetings, even though they might be as brief as 15 minutes.
At a cost of US$1.5 million a meeting the short rendezvous could have set him back as much as US$100,000 a minute.
Ahmed claimed that he set out extensive details of the arrangement with the sheikh in a series of phone calls and in person at his villa in Bahrain.
“I told the defendant that I had learned from my telephone calls that meetings with Bollywood stars would be a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 25 minutes unless the stars wanted to stay any longer,” Ahmed said in papers filed at the court on Tuesday.
The Sheikh met four Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, who is also known as SRK and referred to in the media as the “King of Bollywood”.
He also went on to meet the actors Aditya Roy Kapoor, Salman Khan, and Ranveer Singh.
Ahmed’s lawyers claimed that the sheikh arrived for the meeting with Shah Rukh Khan at a five-star hotel in Mumbai on January 16, 2016 with US$400,000 in cash.
Two days later the sheikh was claimed to have given Ahmed the balance of his fee in a “dark grey Samsonite suitcase” filled with £600,000 and $250,000 in cash. A photo of the suitcase filled with case was submitted to the court as evidence.
After the meeting, the sheikh was alleged to have texted Ahmed to say: “Dear brother thank u so much for kind visit and for making me happy love u always brother al the best in our new contract see u on Thursday. H”
Ahmed replied saying: “U r wellcome always dear bro. As i promised always will do my best efforts to make u happy inshalla. And promise u again will do my best to guarantee our new deal more happy and more perfect of meetting Mr.super star Salman Khan as you wish dream to become true as well same first deal of Mr. Sharokhan. Promise.”
Ahmed’s lawyers said there is “extensive photographic evidence” of the Sheikh “relaxed with the star of his choice, giving out very expensive presents (which he had carefully selected himself at Harrods, etc) and everyone who was present appearing to have a very enjoyable time”.
The agreement was said to have turned sour when the sheikh realised how much money the meetings were due to cost.
Ahmed said the cost of the meeting was high because he had to hire half of the 15th floor of the St Regis Hotel in Mumbai.
“I also booked the presidential suite for the defendant,” he said.
“In total, I believe I booked 10 or 11 rooms at the hotel.”
The Sheikh’s lawyers said: “This is a case that should never have been brought. It is an unjustified attempt by the claimants to exploit the vulnerability and extreme generosity of the defendant by seeking to characterise a relationship of trust and friendship as a cold, commercial relationship between two businessmen. It is an opportunistic claim which has a conspicuous lack of documentary evidence to support it, and which lacks merit at every level.”
The case continues.