Legal hostilities are set to resume in America in the convoluted battle between the Al Gosaibi family of Saudi Arabia and their bitter enemy, Maan Al Sanea, following a ruling by a New York appeal court.
Mashreq, the UAE bank caught up in the affair, will also get its chance to press for the repayment of cash it has claimed from the Al Gosaibis.
A New York state appeal court narrowly overthrew, by a three to two majority, a previous ruling that the US was not the appropriate place for the actions because most of the parties lived in the Middle East and some were unable to travel.
Members of the Al Gosaibi family and Mr Al Sanea have been under travel bans since the scandal erupted in 2009 over alleged theft, fraud and forgery involving about US$9.2 billion (Dh33.79bn).
The decision gives Mashreq the chance to try to retrieve $150 million it claims is owed by the Al Gosaibis as a result of a foreign exchange transaction in 2009.
But the repercussions of the ruling could extend beyond Mashreq's claim. Mr Al Sanea has so far not contested the claims, on jurisdictional grounds. Litigation was delayed while the US courts decided on the matter of jurisdiction but the way is now open for a three-way legal tussle in New York.
Mr Al Sanea could, however, bring a further appeal against the judgement, especially as two appeal judges disagreed with the ruling.
Justice James M Catterson was one of the three judges who overthrew the ruling. "New York has a paramount interest in protecting its own financial institutions …and in adjudicating controversies that implicate its pre-eminent position in the international banking system," he said.
The Al Gosaibis allege Mr Al Sanea stole billions of dollars from them and US banks were implicated in illegal transactions. Mr Al Sanea has consistently denied the allegations.
The ruling allows the Al Gosaibis to resume legal actions against Mr Al Sanea.
"We're happy with this decision. It's unfortunate it's taken so long, but we've achieved what we wanted. Mr Al Sanea has lost the argument on jurisdiction, will he now address the merits of the case?" Eric Lewis, the US lawyer acting for the family, said yesterday.
Mr Al Sanea declined to comment but a source close to him said an appeal was being considered.
No comment was available from Mashreq in the UAE but in New York a partner from the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which represents the bank, spoke to Bloomberg. "Mashreq is confident it will prevail on the merits. It has already obtained a judgement in its favour from a UAE court on the same issues Al Gosaibi has been seeking to relitigate in New York," the partner said.
The verdict of the New York appeal court is the second decision to have gone against Mr Al Sanea in recent months. In June, a Cayman Islands court ordered him to pay a minimum of $2.5bn to the Al Gosaibis.
About 90 international banks say they are owed about $15bn as a result of the affair.