The High Court has issued an order freezing $15m of assets belonging to art collector Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani.
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave issued his judgment
on November 9, describing the behaviour of the sheikh, a member of
the Qatari royal family, as "discreditable, dishonourable and
disturbing" after he left a trail of unpaid bills at auction houses
around the world.
Legal proceedings had begun against Sheikh
Saud after he failed to settle a $19.7m bill in the wake of the
Prospero sale conducted by A.H. Baldwin and Sons Ltd, Dmitry Markov
Coins and Medals, and N&M Numismatics at New York's Waldorf
Hotel in January.
The court heard that lots he bought made up
80% of the value of a market-defining sale of Archaic, Classical
and Hellenistic Greek coins and his purchases included the most
costly coin in the sale - a Pantikapaion gold stater, at a record
price of $3.25m (£2.21m).
The sheikh accepted he had not paid any of
the $19.7m he owed for the coins - a bill since swollen to $25m by
interest - and had at no stage denied his liability to pay. The
judge said the three numismatic dealers had an "unanswerable case"
against him and said the sheikh had "absolutely no defence" and had
not even suggested one.
"The explanations, excuses and unfulfilled
promises given by the sheikh and/or his staff in the past few
months have been unsatisfactory," added the judge, concluding that
there was "more than sufficient material" to justify freezing his
assets up to a value of US$15m.
The court also heard that the Prospero bill
was not an isolated case as the sheikh had unpaid debts with
Bonhams, Sotheby's and at least five other auction houses and art
dealers. The deadlock over payment had become so entrenched that
the UK ambassador to Qatar - and his opposite number in London -
had become involved.
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave judge said: "This pattern of behaviour is
both unexplained and inexplicable, save on the basis that it is
compulsive and redolent of someone with a complete disregard for
his contractual obligations. It is a serious cause for concern. The
sheikh's royal status is irrelevant. We are all equal in the eyes
of the law."