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Saudi King's widow keeps mansion on London's billionaire's row

[LONDON] A widow of the late King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia can retain a mansion on one of London's most expensive roads, after a UK judge rejected a claim against her by the family's foundation.

Deputy Master Edward Cousins on Tuesday struck out a lawsuit by the Asturion Foundation, which manages the Fahd bin Abdulaziz family's global assets. That suit, filed in 2015, claimed the ownership of Kenstead Hall, in the capital's affluent Highgate neighborhood, was unlawfully transferred to King Fahd's widow, Al Jawharah bint Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al Ibrahim, from the foundation in 2011. King Fahd died in 2005.

"This is a proper case for the claim to be struck out in its entirety on the grounds of abuse of process," the judge said in his ruling, adding that the foundation had had a "long period of inactivity" after first filing the suit. Lawyers for the Liechtenstein foundation had "failed to deal constructively" with requests for information about the nature and location of its assets, the judge said.

Asturion's attorney Graham Shear said Tuesday that the foundation would likely try to challenge with the ruling.

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"We do not agree with the judgment of the Deputy Master and we will almost certainly be seeking permission to appeal on behalf of the foundation," Mr Shear said by email. Ms Al Ibrahim's lawyer didn't comment.

The lawsuit gives a rare window into an inheritance dispute within the Saudi royal family, which is typically tight-lipped about wealth and keeps internal discord private. Ms Al Ibrahim was widely believed to be King Fahd's favorite wife and once held great sway in the kingdom. However other branches of the royal family have seen their influence wane as King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have centralized power.

The London court judgment doesn't say who controls the Asturion foundation.

The house was worth £28 million(S$50.24 million) in 2011, according to a document from the UK Land Registry, which also shows it's owned without a mortgage.

It's on The Bishops Avenue, known as "Billionaires Row" in north London, and is listed on the property website Zoopla as a 10-bed home.

"The Bishops Avenue is like Rolls-Royce - it's synonymous with status, power, wealth and importance," Trevor Abrahmsohn, managing director of the estate agency Glentree International which sells properties on the street, said by phone. It's "a wide, tree-lined avenue" where houses have large gardens and "luxurious facilities like indoor pools, cinemas and cavernous reception rooms," he said.

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