Betting’s Biggest Court Cases - Safa Abdullah Al Geabury v The Ritz Club
While casinos often pay out big sums of money to lucky players, they wouldn’t last long as a business if they gave out more than they made... If they have reason to suspect fraud or cheating, they won’t hesitate to take the player to court in order to get back the money that they’re owed.
In the case of Safa Abdullah Al Geabury vs the Ritz Club, one billionaire gambler tried to pull a fast one over the most exclusive London casino.
Who is Safa Abdullah Al Geabury?
Swiss national Safa Abdullah Al Geabury claims to be a billionaire, though the truth appears to be more complex. Born in 1963, Al Geabury made a fortune in trading foreign currency as well as precious stones and jewellery.
In 2006, one of his companies, Kingdom of Treasures, had more than £20 million worth of jewellery stolen by a man who was wanted by Swiss authorities. The company was later dissolved in 2011, and it seems that Al Geabury moved away from precious stones and focused more on his love of gambling.
Al Geabury divided his time between London and Geneva, two of the most expensive cities in the world, and owned property on the exclusive Grosvenor Square in Mayfair.
In 2012, he became a member of The Ritz Club, a luxury casino based in The Ritz Hotel and owned by the Barclay brothers.
The Betting Dispute
In 2014, Safa Abdullah got particularly carried away playing roulette at The Ritz. The gambler purchased £2 million worth of chips before losing them all in the space of just two hours. Roulette is an exciting game to play and one that’s very easy to lose big bets on if you don’t manage your bankroll effectively.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for the casino, but he paid using a cheque, which later bounced. Apparently, Abdullah Al Geabury didn’t have the funds to cover his debt.
The casino had lost £12.5 million the year before, and its staff should have been trained not to accept cheques for chips. However, Abdullah Al Geabury had been a member of the Ritz Club for two years and had previously paid off all of his debts.
This time, it was clear that they’d have to use the courts in order to get the money they were owed. During this period, the casino took several high rollers to court over unpaid debts, including Safa Abdullah Al Geabury.
The Court Case
In 2015, the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard the case between The Ritz Hotel Casino Ltd and Mr Safa Abdullah Al Geabury.
The casino presented evidence to show how Al Geabury had signed a cheque in order to pay for the roulette chips he played with that evening and that it hadn’t been valid. They claimed they were entitled to the full value of the money plus an additional £200,000 in interest.
Al Geabury didn’t dispute that he had signed the cheque. However, he did claim that as a gambling addict, the casino had a responsibility to protect him and shouldn’t have allowed him to play. He claimed to have been receiving treatment for his condition since April 2014. As such, he hadn’t returned to the casino since and believed the debt should be written off.
While he claimed to be able to provide psychiatric reports that proved his condition, the judge presiding over the case said he had failed to establish the gambling disorder was known by staff at the time. As a result, Al Geabury was “the author of his own misfortunes,” and the casino didn’t breach the conditions of its gaming licence.
Despite the court ruling, it’s unlikely that the casino will ever receive the money it’s owed by Mr Safa Abdullah Al Geabury. During the court case, he was unable to provide information on his assets. Despite claiming to be a billionaire, the court found that he had no assets worth more than £20,000. After failing to pay back his debts, a worldwide freezing order for £2.6 million was imposed, but this failed to have any success.
Things got worse for Al Geabury in 2016, when he was found in contempt of court and sentenced to 10 months in prison. Having not returned to the UK since the original ruling, he was tried in absentia. By this point, the money he owed had risen to more than £3 million, but The Ritz Casino won’t be optimistic about getting it back.
It’s clear that in the future, the casino needs to be more careful about their players and how they pay to avoid this situation happening again.