The Telegraph 2024-05-20 01:00:38


Live Search for Iranian president’s helicopter complicated by rain

The search for the Iranian president’s helicopter is being complicated by heavy rain.

Rescuers have been working for hours in difficult conditions and are now believed to be closing in on the crash site.

But they have been hampered by mountainous terrain, intense fog, and now heavy rain and darkness.

There is still no information on the fate of the passengers aboard, who include President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

Follow the latest updates below.

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Qatari royal facing UK arrest after failing to turn up to court over $6bn debt

A member of the Qatari royal family is facing arrest and imprisonment in the UK after he failed to turn up to court over a $6 billion debt.

Sheikh Fahad Ahmed Bin Mohammed al-Thani is accused of owing the vast sum over the collapse of a deal to build luxury resorts in Libya and Europe. An original debt of $900 million has since ballooned to $6 billion (£4.7 billion), making it what is thought to be the biggest single debt owed by an individual in English legal history.

His creditors even turned to Sir Tony Blair to try and negotiate a settlement with Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, but when that failed they went to the High Court in Manchester to try and win their money back. They claim that the sheikh has refused to engage in the English court proceedings and on Thursday a judge issued an arrest warrant for him.

The case is likely to cause serious embarrassment to Qatar’s royal family and risks a diplomatic row with the UK. Al-Thani, 64, is a cousin of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – also known as HBJ – who is a former prime minister and was regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the region.

The complex dispute revolves around a $900 million bond received in 2009 by Fast International Trading Group, a company owned by al-Thani, from the Swifthold Foundation. The money was supposed to fund “two potentially lucrative resort developments in Libya”, according to legal documents. One of those projects – known as the Green City – was meant to create a resort of luxury hotels, golf courses and even a cruise liner terminal on Libya’s Mediterranean coast under plans drawn up when Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was trying to court Western investment. Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011 killed off the Green City scheme.

Refusal to engage

Lawyers Boies Schiller Flexner, acting for Swifthold, claim in papers before the court that al-Thani’s company “did not perform any of its obligations”, and a year later in 2010 began legal proceedings to claw back the money. Legal papers state: “Mr al-Thani has never engaged with the English proceedings”, adding that he had “refused to engage with these proceedings whatsoever over a period of more than 13 years”.

Al-Thani, who is thought to have set up home in London, lived in the UK but has since moved back to Qatar.

Swifthold brought in Delta Capital Partners, a US-based advisory firm specialising in asset recovery and litigation finance, to help recover its money. In 2018, Judge Eyre, KC, ruled that the debt of $5.92 billion after interest remained outstanding. Proceedings were also brought in Qatar with initial success – a local court ordered al-Thani and Fast Trading to comply with the High Court ruling in 2019 but Qatar’s court of appeal dismissed the claim in 2021 in a bitter blow to Swifthold and Delta.

Delta has now begun circulating a photograph of al-Thani to ensure he is “arrested as quickly as possible” in the event he tries to come back to the UK.

Sir Tony’s spokesman said the former prime minister had been approached by a US law firm “to help resolve a case involving a Qatar national that was subject as he recalls to a UK court judgment but he decided there was nothing he could do”.

It is understood Sir Tony agreed to assist and would have received a fee if the case had settled.

The negotiations were unsuccessful, prompting lawyers acting for Swifthold, an Anglo-Spanish investment company, to go back to the High Court in Manchester to enforce an order in a 14-year legal battle.

In the hearing last week, Mr Justice Bird concluded al-Thani had no intention of turning up to court in the UK and issued a warrant for his arrest. “The warrant may now be issued to bring the judgment debtor [al-Thani] before a judge so that a decision can be made about the next steps,” he said.

Justice Bird added: “It’s plain to me that the defendant is not going to come,” he said. “It’s as plain as a pikestaff.”

At a hearing last month in Manchester, Justice Bird found al-Thani in contempt of court and warned that if he didn’t turn up to last week’s hearing he risked being jailed.

‘He has left us high and dry’

Christopher DeLise, Delta’s chief executive, said: “Delta Capital Partners has an extensive network of investigators, private intelligence firms and operators that we work with – we have circulated Sheikh Fahad al-Thani’s photo across this network to ensure that if he does set foot on UK soil he can be spotted and arrested as quickly as possible. All of this could be avoided if Sheikh Fahad did the right thing and cooperated with the court.”

Mr DeLise added: “This is a man who comes from an extremely wealthy background. We have chased him for a number of years now. We thought we had a settlement agreement with him and we were getting things from his lawyers. But then he left London and since then he has left us high and dry.”

In Thursday’s court hearing in Manchester, Michael Smyth, a solicitor at Boies Schiller Flexner, told the court how papers had been served through email, post and recorded courier to al-Thani’s company address, his lawyers who said they no longer represented the royal, and a PO box connected to Fast International.

In his ruling, the judge said he was “entirely satisfied” that lawyers acting for Swifthold had repeatedly “served” legal papers in numerous ways to al-Thani, his lawyers and his company, Fast International.

He was also satisfied that al-Thani had not attended, despite an Arabic interpreter having attended the hearing.

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