A Syrian "whale" won a legal bid to avoid paying a GBP 2 million

A Syrian "whale" who wagered millions in Aspinall's land casino in London's swanky Mayfair district won a legal bid to avoid paying a GBP 2 million debt in a London court this week.

The Times Online reports that Syrian billionaire and high stakes gambler Fouad al-Zayat won his High Court case against Aspinall's, following a claim by the latter (see previous InfoPowa report).

Known in gambling circles as the "Fat Man", al-Zayat had contested the Aspinall's claim over the sum, which he lost in a single night on March 10, 2000. The gambler launched a counter-claim for the return of GBP 10 million, which he said was lost during a period of "unlawful credit", but this was rejected by Mr Justice Teare.

Having paid for his chips with a GBP 2 million cheque on the fateful night, al-Zayat subsequently ordered his bank not to honour it when it was presented. The judge found that he had written to the club complaining of a problem he had with a croupier and that there had not been a fair game.

Afterwards, he continued to visit the club, paying for his chips by debit card payments or third party cheques, but the scale of his betting fell from millions to tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds per night.

Between March 2000 and April 2006 - just after the club launched its claim - he had gambled GBP40.8 million and lost GBP10.5 million. The judge found that al-Zayat had visited Aspinall's on an irregular but frequent basis since October 1994. Up to 2006, he had gambled GBP91.5 million and lost GBP23.2 million.

His gambling had grown until, in 1999 and 2000, he was gambling in excess of GBP1 million in a single night.

al-Zayat argued that after his cheque for GBP2 million had been dishonoured on his instructions, Aspinall's had, within the meaning of the 1968 Gaming Act, allowed him unlawful credit in respect of those losses. The club responded that all it had done was to forbear from suing al-Zayat and that such forbearance could not amount to providing or allowing him credit.

Dismissing Aspinall's claims, the judge commented that as a judge at an earlier hearing had remarked: "This is one of those cases which have everything to do with law and nothing to do with justice."

He concluded that, at a meeting in February 2001, the club did allow al-Zayat 12 months credit in respect of the GBP2 million loss. Since credit had been allowed for that period, the claim on the cheque was unenforceable.

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