It's the kind of drama better suited to an episode of "L.A. Law" than the life of a Salt Lake accountant: a week of international negotiations break down, prompting an urgent flight to California to pick up a $47 million check before the California Superior Court could issue a restraining order preventing the money from leaving the state.
But the drama dwindled into a farce Friday afternoon when Triad America Trustee R. Todd Neilson returned from California with the $47 million check in his pocket - and couldn't get a Utah bank to accept it.The cashier's check is lying in a vault at an undisclosed location in Salt Lake City, losing a potential $12,000 in interest for each day it's there, while Neilson's attorneys scramble to find a bank that will accept it.
"I may have to fly to Switzerland to get the check cashed," Neilson told the Deseret News. "We could do it through a Swiss bank there. They know Khashoggi."
That's the hitch. Utah bankers know Adnan Khashoggi, too.
The check is from Northrup Corp., a California aircraft manufacturer. It is a court-ordered payment to Khashoggi for his assistance in arranging the sale of Northrup planes to The Royal Saudi Air Force.
Khashoggi has promised the bulk of the money - $32 million - to Neilson, who will use the money to pay creditors of Triad America and other bankrupt Khashoggi companies.
That's why Neilson flew to California to obtain the check. The trip became urgent when Neilson learned that one of Triad America's creditors, Euro Commercial bank, did not want Neilson to have the money until Neilson recognized their claim of $6 million against Triad America.
Euro Commercial spent most of last week trying to pressure Neilson into recognizing its claim of $6 million against Triad America, giving it the chance of collecting as much as $3 million from the $32 million, said Danny Kelly, a lawyer for Neilson.
The bank maintains it loaned Khashoggi that amount in behalf of Triad America.
Neilson received calls from all over the world - including such unexpected places as Yugoslavia - urging him to recognize Euro's claim. However, Neilson would only recognize a $1.7 million claim by Euro against Triad, cutting the bank's potential payment to $800,000 or less.
"Euro Commercial became very angry," Neilson said. "They threatened to file an action in Los Angeles making Northrup pay the money to a third party, such as the court, until we determined whose it was."
If Euro Commercial had succeeded in making the threat good, the money could have been tied up in California for months, destroying the $32 million deal Neilson spent a year negotiating with Adnan and Essam Khashoggi. The agreement among the three men stipulated if $32 million wasn't turned over to Neilson by Oct. 31, the deal was off.
When Neilson learned of Euro Commercial's attempt to get a restraining order, he grabbed a flight to Los Angeles Thursday night, advising Northrup that he would be there first thing Friday morning to close the deal and pick up the check.
Fearful of the restraining order, they literally grabbed the money and ran.
"There were threats right up until the moment we closed (the deal) that (Euro Commercial) would tip over the apple cart. We closed at 10 a.m. and we were on a plane and out of there by 11 a.m.," Neilson said.
But after snatching the check from the jaws of the California Superior Court, Neilson can't find any other jaws to take it.
Local bankers are leery. The check is made out to Neilson, and two of Khashoggi's overseas companies: Triad Financial Establishment and Triad International Marketing, Neilson said. Utah bankers aren't familiar with the Khashoggi companies. And what they have seen of Triad America's fiscal romps through Utah doesn't ease their minds any. A U.S. agent for the companies has been given power of attorney to sign the check on Khashoggi's behalf, but the bankers don't know the agent. A notary in Geneva, Switzerland, has vouched for the agent's power of attorney, but bankers don't know the notary.
All this goes to show that even with $47 million in your pocket, nothing beats a personal relationship with your banker.
After Neilson finds a bank to accept the $47 million, $32 million will eventually be transferred to his account at Key Bank for eventual distribution to Triad America creditors.
The other $15 million is Khashoggi's to disburse as he chooses.