'Khashoggi is addicted to gambling - I'm glad he was brought to court'

The billionaire's ex-wife says Adnan never could resist the casino. By Kate Watson-Smyth

Kate Watson-Smyth
Friday 05 June 1998 23:02 BST

ADNAN Khashoggi is addicted to gambling and it will ruin him financially, his first wife, Soraya, said yesterday.

Speaking after the former international arms dealer settled his case against the Ritz Casino, which sued him for pounds 3.2m-worth of cheques that bounced, Mrs Khashoggi said her ex-husband was still a gambler.

"He is addicted to gambling and he can't stop going to casinos. He is in denial but he needs help. I don't think he realises he is an addict," she said.

AK, as he likes to be known, was once reputed to be the richest man in the world, with a fortune worth pounds 2.4bn. An international Mr Fixit with lucrative connections, most of his money was made from commissions paid on sales of aircraft and arms to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, by Western companies.

With wealth came all the trapping of success - homes in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and East Africa; a private DC9 jet and a yacht named after his daughter Nabila.

In 1961 he married Soraya, who said yesterday that he loved to gamble even then. "He called me his lucky rabbit and liked me to go with him," she said.

"If we were getting ready to go out for the evening and he said 'bring a big handbag', as opposed to a small evening one, I knew we were going gambling."

Mrs Khashoggi said she never gambled, and she made a deal with her husband, the uncle of the late Dodi Fayed, that he would always give part of his winnings to charity.

"If he won he would push those chips over to me to go to a Lebanese orphanage and I would cash them so he couldn't have them back.

"We made that deal to keep me quiet because I hate gambling."

Mrs Khashoggi, who divorced in 1974 and sued her husband for half his fortune, said: "He gambles wherever he is and even if I buy a lottery ticket and ring him up he will tell me his numbers.

"I am really glad that someone has brought him to court and that he cannot blame it on a business deal," she said.

Mr Khashoggi was being sued for the money - plus interest thought to be around pounds 5m - but on the fourth day of the hearing, Mr Justice Rougier heard that the parties had agreed a settlement. The details were not disclosed but costs of the case are thought to be as high as pounds 1m. Neither side would make any comment.

The court heard that Mr Khashoggi visited the Ritz Casino on 13 occasions between the end of the January and the beginning of April 1986. But 16 of his cheques were refused on presentation to the bank because of "insufficient funds".

His favoured game was roulette and he would cash cheques for pounds 200,000 a time, although Mrs Khashoggi said she had seen him cash far larger cheques.

Mr Khashoggi claimed that the debt was legally unenforceable because he had an arrangement with the casino's management that allowed him to continue gambling on credit, contrary to a section of the 1968 Gaming Act.

Robert Englehart, QC, for Mr Khashoggi, stated yesterday: "Mr Khashoggi is happy to make it clear that he withdraws any suggestion that the Ritz acted improperly or in contravention of the Gaming Act."

Mr Khashoggi, the son of a personal physician to the Saudi king Abdul- Aziz, has always attracted controversy. But Mrs Khashoggi, who is still very close to her ex-husband, said he would probably laugh off this latest scandal. "He would give away the last penny in his pocket, he is so generous and humble. Even if he is in the middle of a big business meeting and a maid comes into the room with a tray he will stand up and open the door for her.

"But he has got to put his responsibilities to his family, his children and grandchildren first. We want him to live a long time and not drop dead with a heart attack over some lawyer's case. He will probably never speak to me again after this but somebody has got to say it. He needs a wake-up call."

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