A British entrepreneur who successfully introduced English fish and chips to the Middle East is suing leading members of the Saudi royal family for allegedly ruining his business after he claims their company failed to make good on a multi-million pound deal.
Gary Arnold, 50, says the failure of the Saudi royals’ company to keep its part of the deal has left him facing financial ruin, a jail sentence and repossession of his home for unpaid debts, as well as being separated from his family and unable to return to the UK due to the confiscation of his passport.
Mr Arnold and his lawyers say that he and his business partners have not received the money agreed in 2017 as part of the merger and acquisition of their firm, London Business Group, by the Saudis’ family company, Harbor Holdings-Himmah Foods.
They claim the company breached a legally-binding agreement to buy out their share of the multi-million pound business they founded and to fund its expansion in Saudi Arabia and the UAE even though the deal was ratified with a due diligence report by accountants PWC.
A court in Riyadh ruled in favour of Mr Arnold and his business partners - and, as a result, his lawyers, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, are now seeking to have that verdict against the Saudi’s business reaffirmed by the high court in London.
The move pits Mr Arnold and his partners against a high-profile family of Saudi Arabian royals, central to which is Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, who is the current chairman of Harbor Holdings.
Two other royals are linked to the company but deny any involvement in the fish and chip deal. They are its ex-chairman Prince Khalid bin Bandar al Saud, who is Saudi ambassador to London, and its co-founder Princess Reema bint Bandar al Saud, who is Saudi ambassador to Washington.
Toby Cadman, co-founder of Guernica 37, said Mr Arnold was now seeking to enforce the judgement of the Saudi court and to pursue a further claim of damages because of jail sentences he and his Iraqi partner Muhammad Hassan al-Samarrai faced due to the group’s debts in the UAE.
“London Business Group was a very successful business that the Saudi Arabian royals’ company has destroyed through negligence or incompetence. I am on the verge of filing applications in the high court to recognise decisions in favour of the group from Saudi Arabia,” said Mr Cadman.
Mr Arnold told The Telegraph: “These are high profile individuals who seem to be under the impression that they can dump their responsibilities and ignore our exposure. I have been shouldering their liabilities for the last three years.
“Despite numerous promises both written and verbal they haven’t met their responsibilities. It has left us without a business, and without an income. It has left us trapped in a country which we no longer want to be part of and separated from our family and loved ones.
“I have had to send my family back to London and am unable to pay the school fees and my housing costs. My residency visa has expired and the Saudis continue to say they are going to pay then don’t, which is unacceptable.”
Mr Arnold launched his fish and chip shop business in 2000, growing it to 36 branches in malls across Saudi Arabia, UAE and the Middle East. Harbor Holdings bought Himmah Foods in 2016 as it diversified into food and beverages.
The deal between Harbor Holdings-Himmah Foods and Mr Arnold’s London Business Group valued the fish and chip business at about 30m riyals (£7m).
Mr Arnold should have received six million riyals as an exiting partner. His partner Mr al-Samarrai was to be retained for two years to oversee the merger.
But the merged business struggled to meet its liabilities without the Saudi cash injection, culminating in March 2018 with Mr Arnold’s arrest and detention for five days in UAE for a missed payment on a bank loan. His passport was confiscated and he got a two-year sentence in absentia.
The money still failed to materialise despite a new signed personal commitment to proceed with the deal by Prince Faisal in June 2019 in which he acknowledged “some financial circumstances have happened which prevented [him] from transferring the shares and paying the remaining amount.”
Mr Cadman has written to the three Saudi royals this month giving them a final opportunity to settle the dispute or face high court action. He is seeking an initial two million UAE dirhams to settle the criminal actions and liabilities in UAE in lieu of the eventual full payment.
Prince Khalid’s spokesman said he had “never to his knowledge met or had any dealings with the individual or individuals who are apparently making a complaint.”
He added: “The complaint does not seem to relate to him personally but to a company investing wealth on behalf of the Prince’s wider family in which he did not have an executive role. We therefore cannot comment on any dispute involving third parties.
In his role as ambassador to the UK, the Prince does not take an active role in business or investment affairs.”
Princess Reema and Prince Faisal did not respond to the allegations put to them by The Telegraph.