Prince Jefri Bolkiah, a member of the royal family of Brunei, is sometimes known as his Royal Highness Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Jefri Bolkiah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien. And he’s back in the headlines after causing a minor ruckus in New York, where he’s demanding millions of dollars from his former financial advisors.
However, the $7 million he wants returned is a far cry from the $14.8 billion that evaporated into accounts under his name when the playboy prince was Brunei’s minister of finance and chairman of the Brunei Investment Authority, which handled the state’s lucrative oil and gas receipts.
Related cases are still before the courts in the United Kingdom, while across the pond in the Big Apple the prince—whose brother the Sultan of Brunei is still among the world’s richest men—is suing his former staffers, British barristers Tomas Derbyshire and Faith Zaman.
He told the court that the married couple was expected to work as a team after being hired in 2004 to manage his estates in New York and Long Island. Instead, according to Prince Jefri, they lived the high life at his expense and were thus sacked two years later. They face charges of enriching themselves through fraud, breach of contract and criminal enterprise.
But the case itself has been less than riveting.
What has the US media and its affiliates salivating is the prospect of the prince’s flamboyant lifestyle and colourful past getting an extended airing in the hearings once Prince Jefri takes the stand. As a result, lawyers and authorities from Brunei who are backing him in this case have asked the judge to exclude all evidence from earlier litigation.
If successful, the salacious details about his fast cars, yachts, a treasure chest of jewels and harems won’t be admissible, leaving the judge to focus on the real complaints. Among them are more mundane matters like credit card bills and how Derbyshire and Zaman got away with paying just $500 a month for an apartment at Prince Jefri’s New York Palace hotel.
So far, Judge Ira Gammerman has banned any references to Prince Jefri’s long-running feud with his brother the Sultan as well as references to a personal collection of erotic art, leaving those hoping for a bit more ribald entertainment feeling a little flat.