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Ras Al Khaimah investment fund in default

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Attempts to switch ownership of Georgia subsidiary’s Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace Hotel, managed by the Marriott Group, in an apparent effort to avoid enforcement action.

Farhad Azima, an aviation executive and citizen of the United States of America has applied to the Georgian Supreme Court for the recognition of an approximately £8.9 million order of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales against the Ras Al Khaimah sovereign wealth fund, Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority ("RAKIA”). RAKIA is the owner of a Georgian subsidiary, Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority Georgia LLC (“RAKIA Georgia”) which, until last week, owned the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace Hotel, managed by the Marriott Group.

Mr Azima has been seeking to prevent RAKIA from disposing of its Georgian assets, including the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi, but last week RAKIA transferred this to Tbilisi Hotels Holding LLC for USD 44.8 million, in an apparent effort to avoid enforcement action. However, the directors of the new entity are all also directors of RAKIA Georgia and Senior Executives at RAK Hospitality Holding LLC, including Alison Jayne Grinnell their Chief Executive Officer, Stefan Johann Hanekom their Chief Financial Officer, and Donald William Bremner their Chief Operating Officer.

Mr Azima commented:

“It is disgraceful that Ras Al Khaimah sovereign wealth fund is unwilling to pay its English Court-ordered debts. It has now been almost eight months since they owed me substantial sums and I am left with no option but to enforce the debt. When Ras Al Khaimah sovereign wealth fund has no respect for the rule of law, that casts a shadow over the investment climate in the Emirate. Switching ownership is a crude attempt to avoid enforcement, which will not succeed. We warn any third parties against assisting RAKIA in the dissipation of assets.”

In 2016, RAKIA sued Mr Azima in the English High Court, relying on certain documents obtained from 30GB of private and confidential data which had been hacked from Mr Azima and published online. Mr Azima counterclaimed that RAKIA was responsible for the hacking and publication of his data.

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Over the next four years, evidence came to light that RAKIA and its advisors had engaged private investigators to hack Mr. Azima, report on the contents of his data and release it online. One investigator admitted to the hacking and, with others, partaking in a conspiracy to cover it up: witnesses were suborned, disclosure was deliberately withheld, misleading evidence was

rehearsed, including at a ‘perjury school’ run by a Dechert LLP lawyer at a luxury Swiss hotel, and false evidence was submitted to the English High Court.

In June 2022, in light of the new evidence, RAKIA wrote to the English High Court stating that it would play no further part in the proceedings. RAKIA confirmed that it would honour any judgment entered against it.

RAKIA subsequently breached various court orders, including by failing to provide disclosure and to put forward a defence. On application from Mr Azima, by an Order dated 3 October 2023, the English High Court entered judgment against RAKIA and awarded Mr Azima indemnity costs and interest worth approximately £8.9 million.

RAKIA has failed to make any payment to Mr Azima and remains in breach of the October 2023 Order. Mr Azima is therefore taking enforcement action in Georgia and worldwide to prevent RAKIA from disposing of its assets.

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