Playboy given green light to sue BNP Paribas arm over unpaid casino cheques

Alexandra Rogers
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Playboy's claim against BNL exceeds £1.2m (Source: Getty)
layboy has been told it can sue BNP Paribas's Italian subsidiary for deceit over unpaid cheques by a gambler who vanished after using its Mayfair casino.

Playboy Club, which operates a members-only club and casino in the high-flying district, has been pursuing Banca Nazionale Del Lavaro for providing a credit reference to Lebanese gambler Hassan Barakat who took out £1.2m from Playboy's cheque cashing facility before disappearing from the casino.

It later transpired that there was no money in Barakat's BNL account. When Playboy presented the cheques for payment, BNL rejected them, saying they were forgeries.

Playboy attempted to sue the bank for negligence but BNL claimed that the employee who had signed the reference, Paola Guidetti, had in fact had her signature forged and therefore the bank had not authorised the reference to Barakat. Guidetti was later dismissed by the bank but BNL did not disclose the reasons why.

The Supreme Court dismissed the negligence claim in July. Playboy then issued a fresh claim against BNL for deceit. It says it has obtained evidence that suggests Guidetti may have been involved in another fraud against another London casino, Les Ambassadeurs, also based in Mayfair.

BNL argued that there should have been one trial to decide the negligence and deceit claims and that bringing the deceit claim after having the negligence claim thrown out is an abuse of process.

On Wednesday the Court of Appeal disagreed. It ruled: "This is not a case in which a party has deliberately decided for tactical reasons to keep material up its sleeve in relation to a deceit claim until after it sees what happens with its negligence claim. The fair inference is that the club has proceeded to bring the deceit claim by reason of new evidence becoming available which is highly material and strongly supportive of that claim.

"It cannot be said that the club's conduct in bringing its deceit claim amounts to "unjust harassment" of BNL. The club is not abusing the process of the court in bringing and pursuing its deceit claim."

BNL sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the deceit claim but the Court of Appeal refused its application. This could open the door for BNL to apply directly to the Supreme Court.

The bank has also been ordered to pay £110,000 of Playboy’s costs.

Playboy and BNL declined to comment.