Court brands conduct of ex-Linklaters partner as “reprehensible”

Saudi Arabia: Princess’s money should have been returned in 2018

A High Court judge has branded as “reprehensible” the behaviour of a former Linklaters partner in failing to return the $25m he was asked to invest on behalf of a Saudi princess.

Mr Justice Calver said that, in seeking to avoid having to disclose what he has done with money, Ronald Gibbs “has chosen to breach numerous court orders over a three-year period”.

As a result, last July he was debarred from defending the proceedings, in which Princess Deema Bint Sultan Bin Abdulaziz al Saud sought the return of the money, together with consequential losses.

Calver J said Mr Gibbs had still sought to defend the claim at trial but after his application to do so was refused, “Mr Gibbs packed up his belongings and left the courtroom, despite being invited to remain”.

Mr Gibbs had from 2011 been managing the money, provided by the princess’s late father, under a power of attorney. In 2018, there was a settlement agreement between Mr Gibbs and the princess’s business manager to transfer the money to him, but the now former solicitor did not comply with it.

The judge observed: “Mr Gibbs has done everything he possibly could to avoid returning these funds to [the claimant] and his behaviour has been reprehensible.” He identified various points over the years where Mr Gibbs had lied in response to requests to return the money.

Proceedings commenced in January 2021. Mr Gibbs tried to claim that he was in Spain at the time of service but there was video of him “somewhat comically seeking to evade service by running off down the road”, the judge recounted.

A worldwide freezing order was granted the following month while in 2022 His Honour Judge Pelling KC issued summary judgment to the effect that Mr Gibbs was in breach of the settlement agreement.

But he failed to comply with the order to begin liquidating the assets and with a later disclosure order from Mr Justice Jacobs. This led to him being debarred from defending the claim.

Late last year, the court ordered the sale of a £3m west London house Mr Gibbs owned. In doing so, Deputy Master Linwood made serious findings of dishonesty by Mr Gibbs, saying he colluded with his ex-wife to mislead the court as to the beneficial ownership of the property.

The deputy master said: “Mr Gibbs gave his evidence with bluster, swagger and confidence. However, I could not believe much of what he told me was true. He was also at times evasive and prone to exaggeration or manipulation.”

HHJ Pelling had not been in a position to determine summarily whether Mr Gibbs was also in breach of contract in relation to certain other assets but Calver J held last week that he was.

He also found that, had the money been transferred in 2018, it would have achieved a compound annual return of 9% and ordered that Mr Gibbs pay this as the consequential loss.

According to press reports of the hearing, Mr Gibbs told the court that the matter had destroyed his finances and health, claiming he was now reliant on “cash handouts” as a boat captain.

    Readers Comments

  • Henry hendron says:

    Why isnt this chap being prosecuted for theft or fraud? £25m doesnt just “disappear”- his behaviour undermines the trust and confidence the public put in all lawyers…..HH

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