Blown billions, Part I
Banks in the Gulf and beyond are reeling from Saudi Arabia’s Saad and al-Gosaibi scandal. We look at the web of relationships behind a dispute that will change the way business is done in the region, reports Trend magazine. Part I
October 14, 2009 4:44 by Ehtesham Shahid
Saudi billionaire accused of stealing billions – yes, billions. It makes a good story, to be sure. But can a single tale of alleged fraud rock the foundations of the region’s entire financial system? It can when the warring parties are Saad Group and Ahmad Hamad al-Gosaibi & Brothers (AHAB), two of Saudi Arabia’s largest family-owned conglomerates.
If proved true, the charges against Maan al-Sanea, the chairman and CEO of Saad Group, are likely to put an end to at least one lavish lifestyle.
A former Kuwaiti fighter pilot and now a Saudi citizen, al-Sanea lived a king-sized life. According to one visitor, guests at his ranch and private beach were shown his pet lions, his dolphin enclosure, and a carpet he claimed once belonged to the shah of Iran.
Also known as a philanthropist and art collector, al-Sanea, who turns 54 this year, ranked 62 in Forbes’ world billionaires list for 2009 with a net worth of $7 billion. The asset value of his Saad Group empire – named after a son who died in a car crash – reached $30 billion last year. He also owns a small stake in HSBC.
The man now stands accused of using forged documents to loot AHAB, a sprawling conglomerate once led by his late father-in-law, Abdulaziz al-Gosaibi, of a staggering $10 billion. Here are a few ways to put that sum in perspective: the $11 billion fraud of Bernie Ebbers, the now jailed CEO of World-Com, was thought the biggest corporate scam in history until the arrival of Bernie Madoff, the New York financier whose estimated swindle, including fabricated gains, was over $50 billion.