Two Saudi princes on Tuesday sought to extricate themselves from a London legal battle with a Jordanian businessman who accuses them of laundering money for Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamic terrorist organization. Their lawyer called the accusation “fanciful”.
Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a brother of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, and his son Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal, had previously argued they had sovereign immunity from suit but the courts rejected that stance.
They also tried to keep details of the case secret on the grounds that making the allegations public would damage Saudi relations with Britain and the United States, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, but that failed in the Court of Appeal last week.
The Hezbollah allegation is likely to raise concern in Saudi Arabia, because Hezbollah is backed by foe Iran, and Hezbollah fighters are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria while Saudi Arabia is a major backer of rebel forces.
In a court document filed in December 2011 and seen by Reuters, Almhairat says Prince Abdulaziz instigated a deal in Beirut in March 2010 whereby Fi Call issued a $5 million bank guarantee to a Hezbollah intermediary named as Abdul Razzak.
Almhairat says this was part of a money-laundering arrangement that earned Prince Abdulaziz $5 million, and that when Almhairat questioned the deal he was threatened with death.
“We deal with whoever we want to deal with, whether it’s Hezbollah, the Mafia or even the Jews,” Prince Abdulaziz was quoted as saying in a phone call to Almhairat.
“Do as you are instructed. Otherwise your head will be at my feet without your body,” the prince was alleged to have said.
Prince Mishal, 86, is a former defence minister and now chairs the Allegiance Council that will oversee the succession to the Saudi throne.
“You know that I move huge amounts of money for people like our friends the Mubaraks. We’ve been doing this business for years. We can move money for everyone, including the Iranians, because nobody dares to challenge us,” Prince Mishal was quoted as saying by Almhairat.