LONDON: Farhad Azima, the Iranian-American businessman embroiled in a bitter legal row with a UAE investment agency, has hired high profile Indian lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla to fight his corner.
Zaiwalla has previously advised Saddam Hussein and Iran’s Bank Mellat.
It comes ahead of a showdown in the London High Court.
It is the latest twist to a convoluted legal tale that originates in the mountainous northernmost emirate of the UAE, home to the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA).
Azima had previously retained international law firm BLP in a High Court case brought by RAKIA that is part of a web of international litigation. The legal firm did not return a request for comment.
The case stems from a claim by RAKIA that it lost more than $1.5 billion through fraud and mismanagement arising from a string of deals linked to its former chief executive, a Lebanese-Swiss businessman called Khater Massaad.
One of those deals was the aborted sale of a Sheraton hotel in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in 2011, which involved Azima, a Kansas-based businessman.
Zaiwalla has been retained by Azima to handle the case brought by RAKIA, which alleges that he secured secret payments during the planned sale of the hotel.
Zaiwalla has had an eclectic list of clients that have included Benazir Bhutto, the Dalai Lama and even boxer Chris Eubank. He is reported to have sacked a young Tony Blair, in the 1970s when the future British prime minister was working on a case he was overseeing.
He is also known for his work with the Saddam Hussein regime who contacted the lawyer for advice in 2001, two years before the start of the second Iraq war.
Now his firm, Zaiwalla & Co, has been hired by Azima who has brought his own tit-for-tat proceedings against RAKIA in the US — where he has accused the authority of hacking his computer. RAKIA denies the claim.
In the London High Court case, RAKIA alleges that Azima took what it describes as a “secret commission” on the planned sale of the hotel that was brokered by Massaad, who was then in charge of the investment agency.
“RAKIA is looking forward to the next UK High Court hearing in July, when we will be presenting the court with yet more evidence of Farhad Azima’s wrongdoing,” said a RAKIA spokesperson in a statement to Arab News.
“The evidence shows that Mr. Azima has engaged in a systematic course of deception and unlawful conduct over many years. This is drawn from material widely available on the Internet of which we have been given notice. RAKIA has been obliged to bring these proceedings to recover moneys which Mr. Azima wrongly obtained.”
Zaiwalla & Co. confirmed that the company would be acting for Azima in the upcoming London case.
“The case is inappropriately brought and we will be applying for an injunction to stop this case going further,” a company spokesperson said.