The lawsuit is the latest action brought by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani in London over disputed items of art.
Members of Qatar’s royal family are battling in London’s High Court for control of the world’s largest cut blue diamond.
One side of the family is attempting to force a $10 million sale of the opulent 70-carat “Idol’s Eye” gemstone, British business newspaper Financial Times reported on Friday.
The famous Indian diamond, whose previous owners included an Ottoman Sultan, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Qipco, a conglomerate run by Qatar’s art collector Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani.
Elanus Holdings Limited, based in Guernsey, is the defendant in the previously unreported case. According to Qipco, it is owned by the late Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al thani, who oversaw the acquisition of Qatar’s sizable national art collection.
Qipco sued Elanus in November to force the sale of the “Idol’s Eye” diamond, set in a 16th or 17th-century necklace, for at least $10 million under the terms of a 2014 contract between the entities in which Elanus agreed to loan the “Idol’s Eye” to Qipco for 20 years.
The agreement gave Qipco the right to buy the jewel if Elanus wanted to sell it. The price would be $10 million or the average of two valuations from major auction houses, whichever was the higher figure.
The lawsuit claims that in February 2020, a Swiss-based lawyer for the Al-Thani Foundation, Dr Dieter Neupert, notified Qipco by letter that the family wished to sell the “Idol’s Eye”. However, the following month he emailed Qipco to say they did not want to go through with it.
Neupert suggested in an email to an Elanus representative in April 2020 that the pandemic had influenced the alleged reversal, according to the lawsuit, the report said.
“The Family does not want to sell because of the Coronavirus,” he wrote. Qipco has requested that the High Court order Elanus to complete the sale.
Neupert said he was unable to discuss the case as he was bound by attorney-client privilege. He added he could not speak for Elanus as he “never had a mandate to represent Elanus Holdings”.
Elanus does not appear to have filed a defence in the case through Farrer, which is best known for representing the late Queen Elizabeth II.
According to the Qipco lawsuit, Farrer argued that Elanus never wanted to sell the diamond, Neupert was not acting on its behalf, and that Elanus withdrew any notice of sale.
Sheikh Saud, who passed away in 2014, was a prominent buyer in the global art market in the 2000s and was known for his prolific acquisitions spanning multiple periods and genres.
His legacy is found across Doha’s museums, where his wide-ranging collection is exhibited, as well as in his Jean Nouvel-designed Doha Tower in the city’s West Bay.
Meanwhile, Qipco boss Sheikh Hamad, the son of a former prime minister and first cousin of ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has emerged as Qatar’s preeminent collector in recent years, amassing a large collection that includes some of the finest Mughal jewelry.
His work has been shown in major museums around the world, with highlights on display at bespoke galleries in Paris. Dudley House on Park Lane, one of the most expensive private residences in the UK, is owned by his horse-breeding family.
The lawsuit is the latest action brought by Sheikh Hamad in London over disputed items of art.
Qipco won a £4 million case against UK art dealer John Eskenazi in November over forged sculptures it purchased. The High Court ordered Eskenazi’s company to reimburse Qipco but dismissed a fraud allegation.
Both Pinsent Masons, Qipco’s law firm, and Elanus’s law firm Farrer & Co declined to comment, according to reports.