The AlGosaibi business dynasty of Saudi Arabia has claimed a significant victory in its global legal battle against Maan Al Sanea, the financier accused of stealing US$9.2 billion (Dh33.79bn) from the group.
A court in the Cayman Islands, where some of Mr Al Sanea's business interests are based, ordered him to pay $2.5bn to the family partnership Ahmad Hamad AlGosaibi and Brothers.
The ruling, given by Anthony Smellie, the chief justice of the Cayman Grand Court, allows AlGosaibi to take further legal action to recover the money.
Mr Smellie also said that the allegations brought by AlGosaibi that Mr Al Sanea had stolen billions from the company while he was in charge of its financial business were "now deemed to be proven".
The ruling is a boost for Al Gosaibi family members, who are under a travel ban in Saudi Arabia and who are coming under increasing financial pressure in the kingdom and elsewhere. They face more than 60 legal actions in five countries in which creditors, largely international banks, are seeking the repayment of more than $6bn.
However, the ruling is likely to be strongly contested by Mr Al Sanea, who is also banned by Saudi Arabia from travelling. He was not represented at the Cayman proceedings because he contested the jurisdiction of the court but is now expected to fight the action.
An appeal by Mr Al Sanea to the Cayman Islands' highest legal authority, the Privy Council in London, contesting jurisdiction, was dismissed this year.
A spokesman for Mr Al Sanea declined to comment. Lawyers working for him say he has no assets in the Cayman Islands and that the ruling has no bearing on matters in Saudi Arabia, where most of the business interests of the two warring factions are concentrated, or in other jurisdictions where legal actions are proceeding - the United States, Britain and Switzerland.
The Cayman court reached its conclusion after studying a new affidavit from Simon Charlton, the Deloitte executive in charge of the forensic investigation of Mr Al Sanea's businesses in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere between 2002 and 2009. The Deloitte investigation showed that billions of dollars passed through an AlGosaibi company, The Money Exchange (TME), which was controlled by Mr Al Sanea, in the form of cheques and electronic transactions.
At least $5.2bn of the total $9.2bn AlGosaibi claims was misappropriated went through TME, Deloitte said.
"I am satisfied that a significant proportion of the pleaded damages will ultimately be recoverable as against him [Mr Al Sanea] personally," said Mr Smellie.
Eric Lewis, the lawyer in charge of AlGosaibi's worldwide legal campaign, said AlGosaibi's "forensic team provided compelling affidavit evidence of misappropriation. Mr Al Sanea cannot defend the fraud charges on the merits and the court has acted accordingly".
The three-year battle between the two sides, who are related by marriage, has left about 100 creditors, including banks in the UAE and other Arabian Gulf states, nursing billions of dollars in losses. Most have been written off.