Auction defaulter's assets frozen

Posted: 12th November 2012

A voracious art and antiques collector who defaulted on payment after bidding more than US$19 million for rare coins at auction has been issued with a US$15 million asset-freezing injunction after a High Court judge said that he had ‘absolutely no defence’ to the financial claims made against him.

Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, made successful bids for a renowned collection of archaic, Greek and Hellenistic coins at a sale in New York in January 2012 and had given no explanation for his failure to pay the purchase price to three firms of coin dealers.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said that there was evidence that Sheikh Saud also had unpaid debts to other auctioneers and dealers, including £4.3 million owed to Bonhams and US$42 million owed to Sothebys. He added: ‘The Sheikh's recent extraordinary behaviour - in leaving a large trail of outstanding debts owing to a succession of auction houses and dealers - is discreditable, dishonourable and disturbing, as well as unbecoming of someone in his position.

‘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’.

With interest, the coin dealers are claiming US$25 million from Sheikh Saud and, whilst putting forward a number of excuses, he had at no stage denied his liability to pay. Describing the case case against him as ‘unanswerable’, the judge said that there was ‘more than sufficient material’ to justify freezing his assets.