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Sheffield United funded by £3m loan from Osama bin Laden's family, court hears

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 4 days ago Gareth Davies
a close up of a man jumping in the air: Captain Billy Sharp celebrates the win that effectively promoted Sheffield United back to the Premier League © Getty Images Europe/Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA Captain Billy Sharp celebrates the win that effectively promoted Sheffield United back to the Premier League

Sheffield United Football Club was funded by a £3million loan from Osama bin Laden's family, it has emerged in court today. 

A High Court judge is currently analysing a battle for control of the club between co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is a member of the Saudi royal family.

On the fourth day of the hearing a sensational revelation was read out in court, seemingly linking the newly-promoted Premier League club to relatives of the former Al Qaeda leader. 

It relates to an investment opportunity within the club which became known as Project Delta - a £3million loan that McCabe said would never have to be repaid. 

In court on Wednesday, McCabe and Abdullah argued about whether or not the money would have to be paid back, with the Saudi prince insisting it would have been paid back through sponsorship. 

Kevin McCabe wearing a suit and tie © PA/Mike Egerton Kevin McCabe

But on Thursday, Barrister Andreas Gledhill QC, who is leading Abdullah's legal team, said McCabe "knew the money had come from another source, namely a member of the Bin Laden family," according to the Sheffield Star

The court heard of emails in which McCabe's colleague at a property business Jeremy Tutton mentions that he would hate the headline in the Sheffield Star to be "Blades launder money for extremists".

Mr Tutton was also added to the board of directors at Sheffield United in 2017.

McCabe dismissed this as "banter", but Mr Gledhill told the court the email confirms that the co-owner knew where the money was coming from. 

Mr Justice Fancourt began to oversee the trial in the High Court in London on Monday, but went into private session on Tuesday, after hearing lawyers representing rival camps outline their cases, and ordered members of the public and journalists to leave the courtroom.

(Photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The judge gave no indication of what issues were being discussed behind closed doors, but said the public hearing would resume later.

Mr Justice Fancourt has been told that Mr McCabe and Prince Abdullah control ownership of the club on a 50-50 basis.

He has heard that 71-year-old Mr McCabe is "a wealthy Yorkshireman", and "lifelong" Sheffield United fan, and Prince Abdullah is a Saudi Prince and grandson of King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia.

Mr McCabe was born in Sheffield, had long been associated with Sheffield United, who are nicknamed The Blades, and had invested about £100 million.

He had met Prince Abdullah in 2013 after looking for new investors. They started working together after agreeing that Prince Abdullah would invest £10 million but "fell out" in 2017.

(Photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Sheffield United Ltd, a company controlled by Mr McCabe and his family, has alleged "conspiracy" and "unfairly prejudicial conduct".

UTB LLC, a company controlled by Prince Abdullah, wants declarations in respect of its rights under an investment and shareholders' agreement.

The trial is due to last several weeks.

Why are The Blades' co-owners in court? 

The two businessmen behind the running of Sheffield United are facing off in the High Court after their relationship broke down.

On day one, Mr Justice Fancourt was told Mr McCabe and Prince Abdullah started to work together in 2013.

The Saudi prince was first approached by Mr McCabe in 2012. By then, the Yorkshireman had reportedly sunk £70million into his local club and was looking for options to reduce the financial burden being put on him. 

(Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Mr McCabe thought that Prince Abdullah was "minted", but their relationship soured when it transpired this was not the case, the court heard. 

The judge heard how Mr McCabe had long been associated with Sheffield United and they agreed Prince Abdullah would invest £10million. They "fell out" in 2017 and became involved in a dispute over control, the court heard.

Sheffield United Ltd, a company controlled by Mr McCabe and his family, has made allegations of "conspiracy" and "unfairly prejudicial conduct" and wants damages.

UTB LLC, a company controlled by Prince Abdullah, wants declarations in respect of its rights under an investment and shareholders' agreement.

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