Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- A wealthy Swiss-based businessman who claimed he’s homeless and too poor to attend a U.K. trial was sentenced to 10 months in jail after refusing to pay 2.3 million pounds ($3.2 million) in debts he owed London’s Ritz Hotel Casino.

Safa Abdulla Al Geabury, 52, was subjected to a 2.6 million-pound worldwide freezing order and ordered to repay the hotel following a six-day trial last year. He has since "deliberately done nothing to comply," Judge Robin Spencer said while sentencing him Thursday. The hotel sued Al Geabury after he paid for more than 2 million pounds in gambling chips in February 2014 with a check that later bounced.

The hotel’s hopes of repayment centered on more than $1 billion of Islamic art, which prior to last year’s trial Al Geabury claimed to have owned, the judge said. During the trial, the Iraqi-born Swiss national shifted his position, claiming the art had been sold. Before a hearing yesterday, Al Geabury told the court via a written statement that the art was in fact owned by his uncle, and he had wrongly expected to inherit it.

"He was, and is, a man of immense capital wealth," Judge Spencer said. Yet "all attempts to enforce the judgment have been fruitless."

In his statement submitted to the court, Al Geabury said he was homeless and was staying with a friend in Switzerland, adding that he was unable to pay for flights to attend court or pay for accommodation in London. He said he had suffered with depression and anxiety following last year’s trial and had been taking "numerous" medications to treat sleep deprivation.

"I did not deliberately or knowingly ignore the court’s orders," Al Geabury said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Gower in London at pgower@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Chapman at pchapman10@bloomberg.net, Andrew Clapham

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