The former chief executive of a Bahraini bank allegedly linked to a US$10 billion (Dh36.72bn) fraud in Saudi Arabia also produced independent American movies, The National has learnt. Glenn Stewart, formerly the head of The International Banking Corporation (TIBC) in Bahrain, was credited as an executive producer of The Messenger, a 2009 film that was nominated for two Academy Awards in the US.
Mr Stewart was also among 14 executive producers of last year's New York I Love You, a series of vignettes about New York City starring Natalie Portman, Ethan Hawke and Orlando Bloom. In all, Mr Stewart appears in the credits of at least 12 US movies in 2008 and last year, including Dark Streets, a 2008 movie starring Bijou Phillips that was based on a play Mr Stewart wrote. Dark Streets was described in a 2008 Hollywood Reporter article as "a film noir musical fantasy" that took cues from such classics as The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity. It received mostly negative reviews from critics.
TIBC, the bank that Mr Stewart once headed, was taken under administration last year by the Bahraini central bank after it began to default on financial obligations in May and June. It has also received bankruptcy protection in the US. The bank, which is owned by the Saudi group Ahmad Hamad Al Gosaibi and Brothers, has been the subject of lawsuits in New York from Deutsche Bank and Mashreqbank, based in Dubai, relating to the defaults.
As with many banks, TIBC ran aground after liquidity dried up in the global credit crisis, Mr Stewart said. Mr Stewart, who is restricted from travel outside of Bahrain, has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing relating to the defaults, or to accusations of a $10bn fraud brought by the Al Gosaibi group against Maan al Sanea, a Saudi billionaire who is alleged to have exercised control over TIBC, despite the bank being owned by the Al Gosaibis.
Mr al Sanea, who founded the Saudi conglomerate Saad Group, has denied those allegations. Mr Stewart said his involvement in the movies for which he was credited as an executive producer was minimal. He helped set up financing for a production vehicle called Sherezade Films, which is based in Bahrain and registered in the Virgin Islands. Its German backers, he said, gave him executive director credits in exchange for his help.
"I didn't really do anything," he said. "These credits get handed out a little bit like candy to assuage people's egos." Rachel Samuels, who directed the film version of Dark Streets, told Hollywood Reporter that she received a call one day, and "it was [from] Glenn Stewart, an American banker who's been based in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for the past 25 years. "He started telling me about this stage musical that he had done that he wanted to make into a film, and that he had a small budget for," she told the trade publication.
"Before I knew it, I was flying to meet him at an airport in Munich. It all felt very secret agent. He's this international man of mystery; his passport is the size of a phone book. Each time I would talk to him on the phone, he was in a different country. It was sort of a fun little adventure." The play, Mr Stewart said, was inspired by a long-standing desire to do something in theatre. "When at university, I directed a couple of plays and had interest in the theatre and the arts, but it seemed too dodgy," he said. "Over the years, I've harboured a desire to do something creative."
Mr Stewart has emerged as one of the more colourful characters in the Saad Group and Al Gosaibi saga, which has included mysterious gold transfers and the revelation that Mr al Sanea keeps a small zoo at his home in Al Khobar. @Email:email@example.com