RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has been rocked by a lawsuit charging one of the countrys wealthiest businessmen, Maan al-Sanea, with stealing 10 billion dollars from his wifes family over four years. Newspapers on Saturday splashed reports that the prominent Algosaibi business group had filed a lawsuit in a New York court accusing billionaire Sanea of using a workers remittance unit to hide the skimming of huge sums from unauthorised foreign exchange deals with banks. In the biggest scandal to erupt publicly in the Gulf in the wake of the global financial meltdown, Sanea is accused of having used inflated spreads on short-term foreign exchange transactions from the unit to swindle Ahmed Hamad Algosaibi Brothers Co, or AHAB, according to documents filed in New Yorks state supreme court. By constantly rolling over the transactions, Sanea was able to hide them and amass a fortune before the arrangement apparently collapsed earlier this year, according to the charges. AHAB presently estimates that al-Sanea misappropriated approximately 10 billion dollars as a result of his frauds, the group charged. The charges broke open a dispute between the two groups and numerous regional and international banks that had simmered behind the scenes for two months. Mashreq Bank, one of the United Arab Emirates largest, is cited as a relevant person in the case. The charges were filed on July 15 in a third party complaint against Sanea and his Bahrain-based Awal bank in response to a suit submitted by Mashreq in early July against AHAB for 150 million dollars allegedly owed on a foreign exchange deal. At the centre of the scandal are AHAB and Saneas Saad group, closely-linked diversified businesses based in the industrial city of Al-Khobar. Sanea is married to the daughter of one of AHABs founders, Abdelaziz Algosaibi. While the Algosaibi family is an older, well-established trading, industrial and investment group, Sanea and his Saad group grew to prominence only in the past 10 to 15 years. Through extensive international investments he earned his way onto the Forbes global billionaires list, with a fortune estimated earlier this year at seven billion dollars. It appears that this fortune was funded in a significant part by funds fraudulently siphoned from AHAB, the Algosaibi complaint alleged. Sanea ran the Money Exchange, the AHAB unit where the suspect deals originated and which normally processes foreign workers remittances. According to AHABs suit, since 2005 Sanea arranged billions of dollars in foreign exchange deals carrying extortionate rates with other banks through the unit. Mashreq, it said, was one of the main partners in the deals, which were hidden from AHABs management, in part by using forged documents. For four years, literally billions of dollars sluiced back and forth between Mashreq and AHAB, all highly unusual transactions on non-commercial terms, the allegations say. These transactions could not have served any legitimate commercial purpose. Mashreq was not contactable on Saturday, which was a holiday in the United Arab Emirates. The lawsuit adds to the rising concerns of a long list of regional and foreign banks with exposure to both groups, estimated by one bank to total as much as 16 billion dollars. In late May the Saudi central bank froze accounts for Sanea and members of his family following reports of difficulties at another related bank, Bahrain-based The International Banking Corp (TIBC). At the same time the Algosaibi family said it was restructuring group finances, while denying any link to Sanea. Then on June 11 the UAE central bank told local banks to suspend lending to both of the Saudi conglomerates.