A member of the Bahraini royal family is set to give evidence this week in a High Court case over claims he owes millions of dollars to an Egyptian businessman who arranged for him to meet some of Bollywood’s biggest stars, including Shah Rukh Khan.
Sheikh Hamad Isa Ali al-Khalifa, a cousin of the King of Bahrain and a Bollywood fan, is alleged to have reneged on an agreement he had with the businessman to set up meetings with 26 Bollywood actors.
It is claimed Sheikh Khalifa agreed to pay $1.5m for each meeting with a film star plus a $500,000 bonus payment for every third meeting. The businessman, Ahmed Adel Abdallah Ahmed, is now suing Sheikh Khalifa claiming he is owed more than $33.5m after the Bahraini royal allegedly backed out of the deal and paid only $3m. Barring a last-minute settlement, the high-profile case is due to start on Tuesday with the sheikh due to testify later in the week along with his bodyguard.
No Bollywood stars are due to give evidence in the civil trial which is scheduled to last five days. Mr Ahmed alleges that Sheikh Khalifa, who is also the nephew of the deputy prime minister of Bahrain, gave him a list of 26 film stars he would like to meet, and the two men struck an agreement, according to a claim form filed at the High Court in London. The Sheikh then met Mr Khan and actor Salman Khan in Mumbai in early 2016.
He also met two other stars, Aditya Roy Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, in Dubai in March 2016. However, Mr Ahmed claims that the sheikh then backed out of their agreement and instructed another agent to arrange meetings with 13 other Bollywood stars.
The sheikh denies the claims and is defending the case saying he did not enter into any legally binding agreement with Mr Ahmed. In his defence filed at the High Court he says he has a “keen interest” in Bollywood and argues Mr Ahmed had told him he had personal connections within the film industry and could arrange private meetings with stars.
The sheikh’s defence claims Mr Ahmed told him that “he believed that certain Bollywood stars charged as much as $30,000 to $50,000 for private meetings.” He denies he gave a list of 26 names to Mr Ahmed but agrees the businessman arranged five meetings with four different Bollywood stars.
The High Court ruled last year that the case could be tried in London rather than Bahrain because Mr Ahmed had business connections in London. Mr Ahmed is being represented by Zaiwalla & Co, a law firm founded by high profile lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla, while the sheikh is being represented by City law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.