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Saudis Owe Sheik's Ex-Wife $216 Million, Judge Rules

March 07, 2003|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles judge Thursday ordered King Fahd and the Saudi Arabian government to pay $216 million to a sheik's former wife.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Paul Gutman holds the Saudi kingdom responsible for helping to withhold divorce settlement money from Sheika Dena Al Fassi for 20 years.

Her attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, argued that the Saudi government helped the sheika's ex-husband, Sheik Mohammed Al Fassi, hide assets. Mohammed Al Fassi died in December.

Mitchelson said Saudi royals helped take the couple's four children away from their mother in 1983. Legal representatives for the Saudi government did not show up at the hearing to present a defense. Mitchelson said the Saudis have billions of dollars in banks and property in the United States, and that he plans to make claims on some of these assets to satisfy the judgment.

"The Saudi kingdom conspired to do all these things with impunity, and they thought, with immunity. They were wrong," he said. "We have a judgment from the court that allows us to go into any place we find property and execute on it. They can try to defend it, but there's no basis to defend it, because they thumbed their nose at the court."

In August, another judge ordered Al Fassi and his brother-in-law, Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz -- the king's brother -- to pay the sheika.

According to Mitchelson, the royal family financially supports its immediate and extended family. The king's brothers are given per diems in the millions, he said.

Dena Al Fassi originally was awarded $81 million in 1983. Aside from proceeds from the sale of the Bevery Hills property the couple once shared, she has been unable to collect on the judgment.

She now lives in Venice, Italy. Her children live with Prince Turki in Cairo.

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