France upholds freeze on sale of Saddam super-yacht
French court refused to lift a freeze on the sale of a super-yacht built for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
NICE, France, March 6, 2008 - A French court refused Wednesday to
lift a freeze on the sale of a super-yacht built for former Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein, that was impounded on the Riviera in a tug-of-war over its
Docked among the millionaires' yachts in a harbour near Nice since
November, the 82-metre (270-feet) Ocean Breeze, built in Denmark in 1981,
started life as the Qadissiyat Saddam but was never actually delivered to Iraq.
The Cayman island-based firm Sudeley Limited, part-owned by King Abdullah
of Jordan, says it is now the legal owner of the 28-passenger floating palace,
equipped with swimming pools, a mosque, a missile-launcher and mini-submarine.
London broker Nigel Burgess, acting on Sudeley's behalf, put the yacht up
for sale last year for 23.5 million euros, or 34.5 million dollars.
But the Iraqi government, which claims a right to recover the late
dictator's property, managed to have a French commercial court block the sale
on January 31, until its ownership can be firmly established.
The court on Wednesday turned down a request by Sudeley for the freeze to
be lifted, pending a definitive ruling on its ownership, now set for May 28.
Built by Danish shipyard Helsingor Vaerft, the yacht spent its first 10
years in the hands of the Saudi royal family, who renamed it Al-Yamamah and
kept it moored in the port of Jeddah, according to specialist websites.
It then reportedly passed into the hands of King Abdullah, who owns 25
percent of Sudeley, according to documents submitted in court.
Sudeley's lawyers said that Hussein's family had bequeathed the yacht to
the Saudi royals, who in turn gave it to King Abdullah.
But the court said the company had failed to produce "a document that
establishes the ownership of the ship 'Ocean Breeze' by his majesty King
Abdullah of Jordan".
The Iraqi state suspects members of Saddam Hussein's entourage of hiding
behind the offshore firm in the hope of profiting from the sale.
Its lawyer Ardavan Amir-Aslani argues that unless someone can produce a
property deed for the yacht, whether or not money changed hands, its ownership
should revert to the Iraqi state -- which paid for its construction.