Harrods chief facing huge legal bill

The Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed was criticised by a senior judge today and was left facing legal costs in excess of £4 million over his failed attempt to sue the police for wrongful arrest.

The Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed was criticised by a senior judge today and was left facing legal costs in excess of £4 million over his failed attempt to sue the police for wrongful arrest.

Three appeal judges threw out Mr Fayed's challenge to a High Court ruling which had dismissed his damages action against the Metropolitan Police who arrested him over the Tiny Rowland safe deposit box break-in in 1995.

Lord Justice Auld, giving the judgment of the court today, said Al Fayed had led and directed action at his own Harrods security depository which was "a scandalous breach of trust".

The judge said police had sound reasons for suspecting, arresting and questioning Mr Fayed and four of his former employees.

"The claims by Mr Fayed and the other appellants for damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment had no merit in law or on the facts."

The judge added: "This whole litigation has been wholly disproportionate and a gross waste of public and private resources."

Lord Justice Auld ordered Mr Fayed to pay the entire costs of the case in the High Court and at the Court of Appeal which were estimated by lawyers in the case as more than £4 million.

This is on top of the £2 million legal costs - and damages believed to approach £1 million - he was ordered to pay when he was successfully sued in 1998 by Mr Rowland and then his widow over the deposit box break-in.

Mr Fayed - together with John Macnamara, a Harrods director of security, Paul

Handley-Greaves, bodyguard, Colin Dalman, safe depository manager, and John

Allen, security manager - claimed they were wrongfully arrested in March 1998 on

suspicion of theft or criminal damage in connection with the contents of a safe

deposit box which Mr Rowland, then head of Lonrho, kept at the store.

They were subsequently released and in July the same year an investigation by the Metropolitan Police's Organised Crime Group ended without any charges being brought because there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution.

The Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and four named officers denied liability, setting the scene for a long-running court battle in which up to eight barristers and three sets of instructing solicitors were involved at any given time.

After his claim was thrown out by the High Court in August 2002, Mr Fayed claimed the judgment was a "travesty of justice" and immediately announced his intention of appealing.

Today the appeal judges were even more robust in their dismissal of his claims against the police but lawyers for Mr Fayed, who was not in court, applied to take the case to the House of Lords.

They were refused but can still apply directly for the case to be heard.

Lord Justice Auld said Mr Fayed and Mr Rowland, who died in 1998 aged 80, were "well-known and somewhat flamboyant personalities".

"They had a much publicised history of commercial rivalry, in particular over the control of Harrods."

The judge said Mr Rowland had rented a safe deposit box at the Harrods "Citadel of Security" for many years and it was one of the largest at the depository.

Mr Rowland claimed that when he opened his box in June 1997 he found many of the contents, including emeralds and rubies, were missing, together with personal items and correspondence.

The judge said police investigating the break-in were given information that Mr Fayed and the others in various permutations had been involved in three or four unauthorised illegal openings of the box.

Lord Justice Auld said: "Whilst the courts must be vigilant to detect and deal with any abuses of power or arbitrary arrests by the police, in this case, the problem is the other way round."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there