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Top lawyer is ordered to pay Saudi princess £30million after he spent millions on superyacht and boat firm while running her finances


An ex-partner at one of Britain’s top law firms has been ordered to pay out around £30m in damages to a Saudi princess – after being sued by her over his management of her investments.

Ronald Gibbs, 66, a former partner at Linklaters, claims his life has been ruined as a result of being locked in ‘warfare’ with Saudi royals.

But a judge found Gibbs had misappropriated money after he agreed to set up and manage a $25m investment fund for Princess Deema Bint Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2011.

The money was earmarked for a property purchase in Paris, but when she changed her mind, Gibbs instead sunk her money into assets he controlled all over the world, including shares in a boat-building company.

Other money was splashed out on a 3.3m euro apartment in Montenegro and a £17m 40-metre superyacht, which he himself sailed.

Mr Justice Calver slammed Gibbs’ conduct as ‘reprehensible’ and ordered him to give back the princess’ investment and damages.

Ronald Gibbs outside London's High Court, where a judge ordered the sale of his £4million home in order to repay funds to Princess Deema of Saudi Arabia

Ronald Gibbs outside London’s High Court, where a judge ordered the sale of his £4million home in order to repay funds to Princess Deema of Saudi Arabia 

The judge previously ordered Gibbs to sell this £4million house (pictured) in Richmond on Thames in an effort to claw back some of the princess's lost millions

The judge previously ordered Gibbs to sell this £4million house (pictured) in Richmond on Thames in an effort to claw back some of the princess’s lost millions

Mr Gibbs insisted he was 'living hand to mouth' due to the freezing order imposed on him in 2021  but Mr Justice Calver told him he had 'done everything he could' to avoid paying the money he owed

Mr Gibbs insisted he was ‘living hand to mouth’ due to the freezing order imposed on him in 2021  but Mr Justice Calver told him he had ‘done everything he could’ to avoid paying the money he owed 

The court heard how princess and her brother HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud complained that he had failed to return the princess’s millions after being first asked to do so in 2013.

The princess then sued Mr Gibbs and today won her case when Mr Justice Calver ruled in her favour, finding Mr Gibbs liable to pay her back her $25m investment pot, plus compound interest since 2018.

He said Mr Gibbs had done ‘everything he possibly could’ to avoid paying back the money. 

The exact amount he will have to fork out has not yet been finally calculated by lawyers, but is likely to be around £30m as the judge ruled the princess is entitled to 9% a year in interest on the invested sum.

Gibbs had pleaded in court that he was ‘ruined’ and reduced to facing the princess’ team of top lawyers by himself with nothing more than a ‘small laptop and a £50 printer

The court heard that until 2006 Mr Gibbs was an asset finance lawyer who rose to become a partner at Linklaters, one of the prestigious top five ‘magic circle’ London commercial legal firms.

In 2011, after quitting the firm, he agreed to help the princess invest a $25m investment pot handed to her by her father, former Saudi defence minister Sultan bin Abdulaziz, on his death.

The money was invested in a swish apartment at the Regent Hotel in Porto, Montenegro, superyacht company Silver Arrows Marine Limited and a £17m customised 40-metre Sunseeker 131 superyacht, named Elysium after the abode of the blessed dead, a fictional realm from Greek mythology.

The company, whose past projects have included collaborating with Mercedes Benz on a unique yacht based on the lines of one of their cars, is controlled by experienced yachtsman Mr Gibbs, who has also taken the helm of Elysium.

Simon Atrill KC, for the princess, said Mr Gibbs had in 2018 signed an agreement that he would liquidate the investment portfolio by selling the assets, but failed to do so.

After summary judgment was entered against him for breach of that agreement in April last year, he was ordered to pay about £2m in interim damages to the princess.

He did not pay and in December, ahead of last month’s trial, a judge ordered that a five-bedroom house Mr Gibbs owned in King’s Road, Richmond-upon-Thames – valued online at around £4m – must be sold and the proceeds used to pay off the princess.

The former Linklaters partner sank the money into shares in a boat-building company he controlled, a ¿3.3million apartment in Montenegro and a £17million 40-metre superyacht, (pictured) which he himself sailed, the High Court heard

The former Linklaters partner sank the money into shares in a boat-building company he controlled, a €3.3million apartment in Montenegro and a £17million 40-metre superyacht, (pictured) which he himself sailed, the High Court heard

Money was also invested in a swish apartment at the Regent Hotel in Porto, Montenegro

Money was also invested in a swish apartment at the Regent Hotel in Porto, Montenegro

As the full High Court trial began last month, the princess’ barrister said she had sued for return of her original investment, as well as gains her financial advisors could have made with it since 2018.

‘She seeks the long-awaited return of her money that was transferred to the defendant, a former Linklaters partner in 2011 – plus further compensation reflecting the loss of use of that money,’ Mr Atrill said.

‘He has never paid a penny of what he owes, all while spending millions on his superyacht and yacht-building business, maintaining his multi-national property empire, and making significant sales of assets, generating millions of pounds that he directed elsewhere than to the claimant.’

‘This should be a straightforward case,’ he added.

‘Mr Gibbs’ failure to sell the assets or return the funds is, among other things, a straightforward breach of the settlement agreement.’

Mr Gibbs was debarred from defending the claim because of non-disclosure of evidence and failure to pay the sums ordered in interim damages, but had earlier put forward arguments which could amount to a defence, Mr Atrill said.

He had claimed the settlement agreement allowed him to ‘continue to manage the portfolio’ and liquidate it over time and that he had ‘no liability’ to ensure the princess gets back at least her original investment

And representing himself in court, the former high-flyer claimed he had been left financially ruined by three years of legal wrangling and reduced to facing the princess’ team of top lawyers by himself – and with nothing more than a ‘small laptop and a £50 printer.’

‘You can’t get blood out of a stone. There is no point asking me to pay funds I don’t have,’ he said.

‘If I didn’t have an old age pension, I would have struggled to pay the Tube fare today.

‘My small laptop is basically all I have.’

Giving judgment today, Mr Justice Calver said the ‘very purpose of the agreement’ was to ‘liquidate the assets that Mr Gibbs represented that he held for the claimant in order to return her investment of US$25 million.’

‘The terms of the settlement agreement are clear.

‘Once he received the letter signed by the claimant instructing him to liquidate the assets in the investment portfolio, which he received on 25 April 2018, Mr. Gibbs was obliged to liquidate those assets as soon as reasonably possible, seeking to realise liquidation proceeds of US$25 million, but avoiding penalties and fire sale situations.

‘The net liquidation proceeds were to be paid into the claimant’s specified bank account.

‘Mr Gibbs is accordingly in breach of contract in respect of his failure to liquidate each of the assets referred…which could have been, but were not, liquidated by him on the stated dates,’ he said.

He concluded: ‘Mr Gibbs has done everything he possibly could to avoid returning these funds to the claimant and his behaviour has been reprehensible.’

He said the princess is entitled to nine per cent compound interest a year on the sum since 2018.



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