High Roller brought to earth
By Paul
One high roller in the UK has been brought down to earth recently, with assets including his personal Boeing 727 and a £158,000 ($216, 670) Rolls Royce frozen, in a High Court legal action over unpaid gambling debts. Fouad Al Zayat, a Syrian-born entrepreneur, is being sued by the Ritz casino in London over £2 million ($2,730,000) in bounced cheques, according to a report in the UK’s Sunday Times.

Court papers served on Zavat at his apartment at the Grosvenor House hotel in London reveal that Zavat has gambled £21 million after becoming a member of the Ritz casino in 1998. The documents show that Zavat visited the casino 156 times between 1999 and 2001, losing almost £10 million ($13.65). Nine months ago, the Ritz allowed Zavat to use cheques. Zavat then gave the casino seven cheques in exchange for £2 million ($2.73 million) in gambling chips, but, according to the Ritz, they all bounced.

Now the Ritz has obtained orders freezing Zayat’s bank accounts in London, Geneva, Cyprus and the Isle of Man. It is suing Zayat for the £2m, plus £90,302 ($122850) interest on the outstanding debt. The legal action is one of the biggest involving gambling debts in the UK.

One casino director who knows Zayat said: “He has been known to spend £1m comfortably in an evening. He is also a huge tipper, and it’s not unusual for him to tip £1,000 to a waitress who brings him tea and biscuits.”

Speaking from his office in Cyprus last week, Zayat admitted that he had lost large sums at the roulette table in London. “This is the only sin I have. I have lost a lot of money. I know it’s wrong to lose money like this, but if you’ve ever been to a casino you will understand what the atmosphere is like.”

Former associates claim Zavat may have wagered up to £150 million in top casinos over the past seven years. Zavat, known on the London casino circuit as “the Fat Man”, says gambling is his only vice, but he isn’t sure exactly how much he has lost.

 
 
 
 
 
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