No sovereign immunity for foreign princes

Posted: 17th June 2013

RCJIn a guideline case, two Middle Eastern princes who are facing claims in an unfair prejudice petition under section 994 of the Companies Act 2006 have failed to convince the Court of Appeal that they enjoy sovereign immunity from suit on the basis that they form ‘part of the household’ of an overseas head of state.

The princes are, respectively, the half-brother and nephew of the king of a Middle Eastern state and argued unsuccessfully at first instance that, due to their royal blood and involvement in state functions, they fell within the category of foreign dignitaries protected by the terms of the State Immunity Act 1978.

The Court of Appeal acknowledged the half-brother was a senior member of the royal family and a close confidante of the king who had for many years performed significant ceremonial and constitutional duties. Dismissing his appeal, the court noted that he is neither a child nor a dependent relative of the king but is a substantial businessman in his own right with his own household, wives and children.

The role of his son, the king’s nephew, lay even further outside the king’s household and he was by no means as senior a member of the royal family as his father. He too enjoyed his own family and domestic arrangements and, on a correct interpretation of the act, it could not be argued that he qualified as part of the king’s household.