Playboy Brunei Prince Jefri Goes On The Run Over Missing £3 Billion
The Prince, whose main home is the imposing St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park, London, appears to have put himself in exile rather than face prison. Lawyers for the Sultan’s Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) will continue trying to seize his disputed fortune in a string of court cases around the world.
Prince Jefri, 53, a father of 17 with four wives, is said to have swapped his notoriously decadent lifestyle of vulgarly named yachts and gold-plated lavatory brushes for a fugitive existence. He was accused by his brother of embezzling a fortune from the oil-rich state while Finance Minister.
Prince Jefri, who denied any wrongdoing and said he had authority to use state funds, took his case to the Privy Council in London last year but lost. Brunei sources say that he has since surrendered a few diamonds but held on to other assets. Brunei has adopted a hard line, applying to the High Court in London to commit the Prince to prison for contempt of court.
Friends of Prince Jefri are shocked at what they see as the harshness of the Sultan in attempting to get his youngest brother locked up. But legal sources have always emphasised that these actions were being taken by the nation’s investment vehicle rather than the Sultan.
Mr Justice Peter Smith was clearly unamused by Prince Jefri’s failing to turn up for the hearing yesterday. When Martin Pascoe, QC, for the BIA, told the court that the Prince would be absent, the judge asked the Prince’s counsel James Lewis, QC, why. “Tell me where he is,” the judge said, “or don’t you know?”
Mr Lewis said: “I don’t know where he is. He is abroad, I believe in France. My understanding is that he does not mean to attend these proceedings at all.” Mr Lewis said that the Prince had also given an address in Monaco.
The judge said: “If he is arrested he will have to come before me. It will take an advocate of great skill to persuade me that he should have bail.” The judge issued a warrant that will result in England’s ports and airports being put on alert to watch out for Prince Jefri. But lawyers doubt that the warrant could be extended beyond these shores. The Prince had already exiled himself from Brunei in 2004.
The sultanate’s legal team have managed to take back ownership of the New York Palace Hotel by suing in Malaysia. But they are still pursuing claims in California and the Cayman Islands to seize the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles from Prince Jefri.
The court order at the core of the case resulted from claims that the Prince embezzled £8 billion as Finance Minister. He claims that he has already complied with the terms of the order made in 2000. But the BIA alleges that he allowed money to be taken out of bank accounts that were supposed to be frozen and that he failed to disclose other assets.
It says that Prince Jefri is in contempt of court for breaching an order freezing his assets, failing to disclose his assets and putting false evidence before the court.
The Prince’s friends said that Brunei’s attempt to get him jailed was “purely vindictive”, serving no purpose “other than to extract punitive revenge on your brother”. He seemed to have decided it was best “not being around to be locked up for the best part of two years”, they said. “What’s going on is a cruel and unusual form of punishment inflicted on Jefri,” one said. “The one thing he didn’t want to be is locked up. If he sets foot in the UK he will be arrested and imprisoned on remand. Had the proceedings gone ahead and concluded he would have been jailed at the end.” (Times Online, UK)