Judge writes off Fat Man's £2m gambling debts at
A man who regularly won and lost millions in a
night at London casinos won again yesterday when the high court upheld his
refusal to pay £2m in gambling debts after he cancelled a cheque because
he disliked the croupier at Aspinall's and considered the game unfair.
But Fouad al-Zayat, a
Syrian-born, Cyprus-based businessman nicknamed the Fat Man, failed in a claim
to force the casino to return a further £10.5m losses. He will have to
pay his own costs, which are enormous after almost two years of legal actions.
Yesterday Mr Justice Teare repeated the judge's comment from an earlier
hearing: "This is one of those cases which have everything to do with law and
nothing to do with justice."
dispute between Aspinall's and one of its most lucrative clients dates back to
a Friday night in March 2000 when Zayat settled down to a game of blackjack. He
was well known at the club: he first started playing there in 1994, and over
more than 600 visits bought £91m in gaming chips and lost more than
That night he lost steadily, and by the small hours of
Saturday was more than £2m down, his worst losses in a single game. At
one point he asked for the croupier to be changed, but was told none other was
available. When he discovered that there had been another croupier on duty, he
was enraged and told his bank to stop the cheque; when the casino tried to bank
it the following Tuesday, it bounced.
Aspinall's, reluctant to lose its
whale - as the highest-stake gamblers are known - delayed proceeding against
him for almost six years, during which he lost another £10.6m. "Not
surprisingly he was regarded by the club as an important client who demanded
and was shown respect," said the judge.
The casino won an initial
judgment that he must pay up, and assets including a personal jet were
temporarily frozen. However, Zayat then won the right to launch the appeal
which was upheld yesterday, on the grounds that in delaying attempting to
recover the debt, the club had in effect given him credit, which is illegal
under the Gaming Act. His additional claim for the return of his subsequent
losses - when the club allowed him to buy chips using third-party cheques or
debit cards - was thrown out.
There was no official response from the
club yesterday, but Andrew Herd, one of the directors, said it would be
considering the judgment carefully.
The Fat Man has not been seen
there recently, nor as far as Aspinall's knows at any of the other London
casinos which were once his haunts.
There was no response from Zayat
either. However, last year, in one of only a handful of interviews he has ever
given, he explained why he was fighting the debt: "Casinos give a service, and
if the service is not good, considering the price which you are paying, then
you do not pay. If you go to a restaurant and you do not like the food, you do
not pay. If you go to the whorehouse and do not get the pleasure you were
seeking, you do not pay."