PRINCE JEFRI: THE SULTANS'S BROTHER, AND HIS EXTRAVAGANT LIFESTYLE

PRINCE JEFRI

Prince Jefri Bolkiah is the Sultan of Brunei’s brother. Despite dropping out of school when he was 15, the prince was finance minister of Brunei between 1984 and 1996 and head of the Brunei Investment Agency and was in charge of investing Brunei’s massive oil wealth. He oversaw the building of a vast amusement park in Brunei’s capital , a huge hospital that catered primarily to the royals, a modern sports stadium, a convention center and a $1 billion hotel and resort. But his tenure in these positions and his lifestyle in general were dogged by a number of scandals and was ultimately fired from his jobs and sued by his brother for wasting billions.

The “orgiastic wealth” of Prince Jefri—known to his friends as P.J.—has included 250 companies, 2,000 cars, luxury hotels, planeloads of women and polo ponies, colossal diamonds. Once the world's most notorious playboy, Prince Jefri, would book entire floors of the best hotels for his entourage jetted in on spending sprees which saw millions spent on everything from huge gem stones to Ferraris. According to bornrich.com Prince Jafri spent $78 million at Pininfarina SpA for coach-built Ferraris and $475 million at Rolls Royce. Maureen Callahan wrote in the New York Post: Jefri, 59, maintains a separate pleasure palace and once owned a 152-foot yacht called Tits; he named its tenders Nipple 1 and Nipple 2, and could never understand why others often found that juvenile and crass. Here and abroad, the brothers are infamous for their sex parties and their harems composed mainly of underage girls. [Source: Maureen Callahan, New York Post, May 10, 2014]

HRH Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah was born 1954. He is the brother of Hassanal Bolkiah, the current and 29th Sultan of Brunei, and the fourth son of Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei. Prince Jefri is currently 17th in the line of succession to be sultan. Prince Jefri’s son—1) HE Prince Haji 'Abdu'l Hakim (born 1973), 2) HE Prince Muda Bahar (born 1981) and HE Prince Kiko (born 1995)— are 18th, 19th and 20th in the line of succession to be sultan.

Prince Jefri’s primary family members: 1) Her Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Norhayati binti Pengiran Jaya Negara Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman is the wife of HRH Prince Jefri. 2) His Highness Pengiran Muda Abdul Hakeem ibni Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Haji Jefri Bolkiah, (HH Prince Abdul Hakeem) is the son of HRH Prince Jefri. 3) Her Highness Pengiran Anak Hamidah Jamalul Bulqiah binti Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Haji Jefri Bolkiah, (HH Lady Hamidah), is the daughter of HRH Prince Jefri. 4) His Highness Pengiran Muda Bahar ibni Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Haji Jefri Bolkiah, (HH Prince Bahar), son of HRH Prince Jefri.

Prince Jefri’s Extravagant Lifestyle

Prince Jefri has regarded himself as something a playboy. He loves fast cars, beauty queens and spending money. At the height of his profligacy he owned a huge yacht, a private Airbus A340, Formula 1 racing car and a Siorsky helicopter. In his palaces he had gold-plated toilet brushes, gilded toilet paper holders, a 12-foot-high bronze rocking horse, two antique cannons, fine china with a royal seal, an inventory of grand pianos and machinery for a bowling alley. By one count he spent an average of $747,000 a day over 10 years, which added together comes to a total of $2.7 billion. By some accounts he wasted a total of $25 billion if his bad investments are calculated in.

There stories about a mysterious Citigroup bank account – the 555 account – into which billions of dollars is said to have been deposited. According to the Daily Mail, “Jefri, known for his spending habits, was accused of embezzling $14.8 billion from Brunei, a charge he denied. His purchases over the years have included 600 properties, over 2000 cars, over 100 paintings, five boats, nine aircraft including an Airbus, rugs made of gold, and even a mega-yacht he christened 'Tits'. The polo-playing prince is known for his spending. In the 90s he bought a carpet made from solid gold threads and 25,000 precious stones In 2000 he agreed to turn over his personal holdings to the government in return for avoiding criminal prosecution. But he was accused of hiding assest this Auguest when he allegedly sold hundreds of millions of pounds worth of diamonds in secret.” [Source: Daily Mail, November 6, 2010]

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, In court, Bob and Rafi Manoukian, Armenian brothers whom Jefri had enriched after frequenting their London tailor shop, “described Jefri’s “sex parties” at home and abroad. (The manifest on his 747 usually comprised mostly young women.) Their attorney called him a man of “unlimited tastes,” a “one-man walking market,” who bought practically everything he saw, including a rug woven with jewels in threads of solid gold ($7 million), 10 jewel-encrusted wristwatches that depicted on the hour a couple copulating ($8 million), and similarly erotic fountain pens ($1.3 million). In London alone, the Manoukians charged, he kept 40 prostitutes at the Dorchester hotel and spent $34 million for the former Playboy Club at 45 Park Lane—more than four times the market price, according to the brothers—so that he could house more hookers and secretly indulge his passion for gambling. (Jefri denied employing prostitutes.)” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011]

Sultan of Brunei and His Brother Prince Jefri

Prince Jefri’s inner circle refers to his brother, the Sultan of Brunei, a known as the "Big One," despite his small size. Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “The sultan’s biggest extravagance turned out to be his love for his youngest brother, Jefri, his constant companion in hedonism. They raced their Ferraris through the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital, at midnight, sailed the oceans on their fleet of yachts (Jefri named one of his Tits, its tenders Nipple 1 and Nipple 2), and imported planeloads of polo ponies and Argentinean players to indulge their love for that game, which they sometimes played with Prince Charles. They snapped up real estate like Monopoly pieces—hundreds of far-flung properties, a collection of five-star hotels (the Dorchester, in London, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, in Paris, the New York Palace, and Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel, in Los Angeles), and an array of international companies (including Asprey, the London jeweler to the Queen, for which Jefri paid about $385 million in 1995, despite the fact that that was twice Asprey’s estimated market value or that Brunei’s royal family constituted a healthy portion of its business). [Source: Mark Seal,Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

“The brothers routinely traveled with 100-member entourages and emptied entire inventories of stores such as Armani and Versace, buying 100 suits of the same color at a time. When they partied, they indulged in just about everything forbidden in a Muslim country. Afforded four wives by Islamic law, they left their multiple spouses and scores of children in their palaces while they allegedly sent emissaries to comb the globe for the sexiest women they could find in order to create a harem the likes of which the world had never known.*=*

One person described the sultan and Prince Jefri as incredibly dim. “They don’t have a lot of thoughts.” [Source: Richard Behar, Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

Relations Between the Sultan of Brunei and His Two Brothers

Richard Behar wrote in Fortune, “The Brunei crisis, however, is more than a tale of unbridled spending. It is also a bizarre story--often veering into farce--about a decades-long rivalry among the three brothers, a feud that often seems more concerned with politics and the settling of old scores than with any actual financial crimes. As one of Jefri's aides explains it, "You're basically dealing with a little medieval kingdom, a little medieval court, which goes back to brother against brother, to the power struggles you've read about down the ages, whether in Florence or Venice or anywhere else. That's life. Times don't change." [Source: Richard Behar, Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

“Indeed, the Shakespearean plot lines are hard to miss. In 1968 the Sultan--then just 22--inherited the throne from his increasingly addled father, who'd been hustled into early retirement by his British overlords. Some years later Hassanal, the new Sultan, became smitten with an airline stewardess and decided to make her his second wife. (He, like his father before him, was already married to one of his first cousins.) The old Sultan was furious and until his death in 1986 refused to accept the commoner into the family. Mohamed, convinced he would have made a better ruler than his slightly older brother, had bitterly resented his father's choice of heir. Nevertheless, faced with Hassanal's affront to the family, Mohamed--a pious, conservative Muslim with only one wife--sided with the old man. Jefri--who enjoys four wives, the most allowed under Muslim law--cast his lot with the love-struck junior Sultan. <+>

“In the years that followed, Mohamed apparently grew jealous of Jefri's friendship with the Big One. The two drove sports cars and played polo and badminton together in Brunei, while away from home they indulged similar playboy appetites. Mohamed, in contrast, was short on fun and long on prayer. To make matters worse, in the mid-1980s he was also a prominent shareholder in two major corporations in Brunei that suddenly collapsed, causing the Sultan considerable embarrassment. The failures weren't Mohamed's fault, but P.J. seized the chance to make some political gains. "Jefri drove the needle fiercely into Mohamed and made him look worse in the eyes of the Sultan," admits one of Jefri's top advisers. Thus alienated from the throne, Mohamed stewed, awaiting his moment. It would be more than a decade before it came. “ <+>

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, ““In true fairy-tale style, the kingdom eventually woke up, some insist at the prodding of a third Bolkiah brother, Prince Mohamed, who disdained the fast-living Jefri and his influence on the sultan. “Up until March 1998 Prince Jefri enjoyed a very close relationship with the Sultan,” Jefri’s attorneys declared in a legal filing. “In this respect, Prince Jefri had incurred the enmity of another of his brothers, Prince Mohamed, whose views are cast in a much more conservative and religious mold.” Watching his brothers from the wings, Mohamed, who had only one wife and flew commercial, waited for his chance to stop the party. He found it in 1997, when a former Miss USA named Shannon Marketic sued Jefri and the sultan for $10 million, claiming that she and six other young women had been hired for $127,000 each to travel to Brunei for professional appearances, supposedly involving “intellectual conversations” with visiting dignitaries, but instead were forced to serve as “sex slaves.” [Source: Mark Seal,Vanity Fair, July 2011]

Prince Jefri’s Sex Life, Sex Statues and Scandals

In 1997, Shannon Marketic, the 1992 Miss USA, flew to Brunei for "promotional" work and then claimed she was kidnaped by Prince Jefri who she said tried to make her a "sex slave," and forced to her to entertain him for 32 days. She later sued the Sultan of Brunei, Prince Jefri and the Brunei government for $10 million for kidnaping her. Prince Jefri denied the allegations. Even so, the royal family settled the matter out of court, reportedly paying millions in exchange for total confidentiality on the matter. Two women in Hawaii settled similar suits. Afterward the prince said, “I do not seek a fight and prefer to be left alone.”

Prince Jefri has 17 children by seven women. In the 1990s it was said he had four wives and 35 children, with 18 of these children adopted. The Daily Mail reported: “And he has a harem. His harem was first detailed in 1997 by former Miss USA Shannon Marketic. Her lawsuit claimed she and other young women were lured to be sex slaves after traveling there under false pretenses. After arriving in Brunei, she said, they had their passports confiscated and were checked for sexually transmitted diseases.” In 2010 “Jillian Lauren, published a memoir 'Some Girls' detailing her 18 months in the harem as one of Jefri's 40 girlfriends, showered with jewelry, designer clothes and bags stuffed with cash.” [Source: Daily Mail, November 6, 2010]

Prince Jefri spent $1million (£617,000) for pornographic statues depicting himself in various sexual positions with a fiancee. The Daily Mail reported: “Prince Jefri immortalized his bedroom antics with Micha Raines in life-sized bronze sculptures he had commissioned for his Long Island estate Sunninghill. Remarkably, considering their cost, the statues bear little resemblance to Jefri. Sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr claims he was unaware the private commission came from Prince Jefri. 'The sculptures were a commission specifically featuring positions of the ancient public domain Kama Sutra,' his spokesman told The Daily Beast. 'Artists’ models were used and there was no reference to any collector, buyer, or other individual in the making of the pieces. The project was commissioned anonymously via a holding company and the sculptor was not told the identity of the buyer.' Jefri was reportedly upset when the statue lacked a mustache and some fixes were ordered, the Daily Beast added. [Source: Daily Mail, November 6, 2010]

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “Prince Jefri was convinced that Mohamed [his brother] and his men were spying on him, both when he was in Brunei and abroad, according to Jefri’s lawyer Geoffrey Stewart. He says Jefri commissioned J. Seward Johnson to make the sex statues to shock his brother. “Mohamed loved to buzz Prince Jefri’s palace in his helicopter, and Prince Jefri decided that the thing to do would be to have these life-size statues made and put them around the pool. The next time Mohamed buzzed the house, he’d be appalled and shocked.” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

Miss USA Sues Prince Jefri for Keeping Her as a Sex Slave

Maureen Callahan wrote in the New York Post: “In 1997, Brunei’s long-rumored harems and sex parties were made public when Shannon Marketic, a former Miss USA, sued Jefri and the sultan. In court filings, she claimed a talent agency brokered a $3,000-a-day job in Brunei, where she’d do “personal appearances and promotional work.” Instead, Marketic said, she was held as a sex slave, forced to dance every night in the prince’s private disco from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., called a whore and groped at random. Marketic told People magazine that she’d been drugged and molested, and once back in the U.S., sued them for $10 million, citing “mental anguish, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, other trauma.” The brothers claimed diplomatic immunity, and the Sultan called the accusation “worse than murder.” The case was dropped. [Source: Maureen Callahan, New York Post, May 10, 2014]

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “In 1997, when a former Miss USA named Shannon Marketic sued Jefri and the sultan for $10 million, claiming that she and six other young women had been hired for $127,000 each to travel to Brunei for professional appearances, supposedly involving “intellectual conversations” with visiting dignitaries, but instead were forced to serve as “sex slaves.” Her passport was seized, she claimed, and she was made to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases and to report to all-night “parties” where women of many nationalities, for fees spiraling up to $1 million, danced, sang karaoke, and warred for the attention of Prince Jefri in a massive disco-cum-sports-complex he had installed in his home, called Assurur Palace. [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

“Whenever the prince and his posse were on their way to the disco, a mirrored ball would drop from the ceiling, signaling the women to start dancing. Jefri and his friends would then invite their favorites to “tea” (code for sex). “It would be the biggest honor of my life if I was permitted to sleep with Jefri, because he is half-man, half-god, like Jesus Christ to the Christians,” Marketic said an aide to the prince had told her. Jefri denied the allegations in Shannon Marketic’s lawsuit, which was dismissed, owing to the royal family’s sovereign immunity, but the media backlash was blistering. One British paper said that “American girls” were no longer invited to Brunei because of the scandal.” *=*

Members of Prince Jefri’s Harem

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “Jillian Lauren, who wrote about her time in Jefri’s harem in her book Some Girls, published last year, said that sex with the prince was quick, impersonal, and unprotected. After their first encounter was over, she wrote, he slapped her ass, bolted out of bed, and said, “That was very nice for me. I am late for a meeting.” She adds, “Robin [the pseudonym Jefri insisted his lovers call him] was always famished behind the eyes. It was the kind of hunger you could never really feed, the kind that keeps you up until five A.M. every night, the kind that drives you to fuck girl after girl, to buy Maserati after Maserati.” Jefri would give his favorites “bonus boxes” of jewelry (one woman auctioned off a gift necklace at Christie’s for $100,000), pay their rents back home, and approve “boob jobs,” according to Lauren, who so pleasured him in bed that he paid her the ultimate compliment: passing her on to the sultan, who flew her across his kingdom by helicopter to a hotel where, she wrote, she honored him with a blow job. [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

Maureen Callahan wrote in the New York Post: “Lauren, who was recruited as a harem girl at just 18, doesn’t believe Marketic’s allegations. “Her description of what was going on at parties doesn’t ring true.” Other things do. Upon landing in Brunei, Lauren says, all of the girls were forced to hand over their passports. Lauren was told never to show her soles — an insult in Muslim countries. She was warned to watch what she did and said at all times; surveillance was everywhere. She was to keep her weight down, and if that was a problem, there was a doctor on hand with diet pills, sleeping pills — whatever she might need. [Source: Maureen Callahan, New York Post, May 10, 2014 ~~]

“Lauren was to bow to the royals whenever one passed, was not to speak unless spoken to, and at all times was to keep her head lower than Jefri’s — who demanded the girls call him Robin, a name he found more American. He liked American cars and clothes and pop culture but had a more complicated attraction to American girls. “As the decadence increased, so did the number of Americans,” Lauren says. “He would start opening magazines and say, ‘I want that woman,’ ‘I want that one,’ and order them.” ~~

“Lauren was one of the rare Westerners who found subservience easy. “A lot of American girls had a bigger problem with it than I did,” she says. “There was one girl who was like, ‘I’m an American. I’m not bowing for anybody.’ She left after a few weeks.” Most of the girls, she says, were Filipino or Thai, many as young as 15. “There’s no such thing as underage over there,” Lauren says. The girls were housed in Jefri’s palace and left to waste away until nighttime, almost never permitted to leave. Nights were spent drinking top-shelf liquor in the disco, dancing for the prince and his entourage, hoping that this one night you may be chosen — maybe alone, maybe with other girls. ~~

“You’re out of your mind with boredom,” Lauren says. Weeks passed before she was summoned, ordered into a Mercedes-Benz and driven to an anonymous office building, where she was led into a garish suite and locked inside, alone. “An hour passed,” she writes. “There were no books, no magazines, no television. I walked in circles. I sat back down. I looked for a bathroom. I tried the door and it was locked . . . I considered peeing in a wastebasket. I was trembling from the cold, from hunger, from nerves.” ~~

After four hours, the prince showed up. They had sex, the prince not wearing a condom, and when he was done, “He lay beside me for exactly three seconds before slapping my ass” and saying, “That was very nice for me. I am late for a meeting.” Lauren says the prince never used protection and never asked her if she was on the pill or using any form of birth control. She wasn’t screened for STDs. “It was certainly a concern,” she says. “But we didn’t talk amongst ourselves because it was a very touchy subject — who was sleeping with him when. It was adversarial.” ~~

“Lauren was considered a Jefri favorite, and her status was confirmed when Jefri passed her along to his brother, the Sultan. She was helicoptered to Malaysia with no warning, brought to a hotel suite, and left alone with the Sultan, who asked her how she liked his country and then asked for oral sex. She gave it and was dismissed, never to see him again. “That night, Robin was eager to know if [the Sultan] had liked me,” Lauren writes. “He seemed like a little boy looking for his father’s approval.” ~~

“Her payment came in jewels, shopping sprees and stacks of cash, which she’d change to US dollars in Singapore. She stashed the bills in two money belts, wore her jewelry and slugged Jack Daniel’s as she smuggled her haul through US customs. In transit, she was no high-class hooker — just another slightly drunk conspicuous consumer. Over three years, Lauren went back and forth to Brunei for months on end, leaving when the Prince had finally tired of her. “Robin was in London on business when I left,” she writes. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.” ~~

Micha Raines, Prince Jefri’s Girlfriend

Micha Raines was Prince Jefri’s girlfriend while he was feuding with the sultan in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She met the prince met in a Las Vegas hotel and bore him a son. As of the early 2010s she lived in an $8.5 million house in Las Vegas that Jefri gave her. Once the prince’s fiancée, she was the inspiration for four of the famous life-size erotic statues at his New York estate.

In a New York court she told a court: ‘I was paid a salary when I was working for him and then as a fiancée I was given gifts.” Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, The $45,000 a month she testified she received surely paled compared with the gifts Jefri and the sultan were known to bestow. After Jefri came under siege by the sultan, he made Raines his aide-de-camp: she acted as his spokesperson, especially with women. On a meeting with Jefri, Faith Zaman said, “When Prince Jefri asked a question at his first meeting, he looked at Tom. But when he wanted to ask me a question, he prompted Micha, and Micha would ask me the question.” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

On her courtroom appearance in November 2010, the Daily Mail reported: “The 41-year-old was called as a witness for the prince in the case, in which he claims the two lawyers conned him over a property. While in the witness box she looked little like the statues... perhaps because she was clothed. Miss Raines patiently answered a series of questions about Mr Bolkiah's business practices over the years she was with him. She described how Prince Jefri had been impressed by the husband-and-wife legal team he's now suing. She said, and Raines herself handwrote several notes, on Prince Jefri's behalf, to the couple, expressing his satisfaction with them. [Source: Daily Mail, November 24, 2010]

“Mr Bolkiah, who is currently married to three wives, having divorced two others, does not give any money to his former partner. But Miss Raines shared the prince's fabulous wealth between 1996 and 2005, when they were together. At one point, she said, she was 'earning' £33,000 a month. 'I was paid a salary when I was working for him,' she said. 'And when I was his fiancée, I was given gifts.' Even now she and their five-year-old son live in a £6million Las Vegas house that was a gift from the prince. She added: 'He still calls a few times a month.'” [Ibid]

Looking for Prince Jefri and His Money

Richard Behar wrote in Fortune, “My assignment for FORTUNE was to find Jefri, who was reported to be "hiding" in either Paris or Switzerland following the meltdown back at home. (In fact, the prince and a female assistant were enjoying their weekends at St. John's Lodge, his London estate where we would eventually meet. For a change of scenery they were spending their weekdays secluded in a $5,000-per-night suite on the 51st floor of Manhattan's New York Palace hotel, which Jefri owns.) I was also, if possible, to trace the money trail. One business magazine had described Jefri's private empire as collapsing under $10 billion in "debts"; another publication spoke of $16 billion in "losses"; still another had Jefri absconding from Brunei with $8 billion. None of those reports appear to be true. But sorting fiction from fact--never mind getting sources to allow their names to be published--turns out to be next to impossible when writing about this murky monarchy, where the release of even incidental financial data can land a minister in prison. [Source: Richard Behar, Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

“Over two months I flew to three countries to meet top aides to Jefri, the Sultan, and Mohamed. (I even hooked up briefly with a private eye named John Quirk; for an account of how he tried to con me, see the following story.) My first stop was to see a team of Jefri's advisers at another of the prince's grand hotels, the Plaza Athenee, in Paris. Security outside the building was tight. In the hotel's courtyard and over fine food, red wine, and an endless supply of Cuban cigars.” <+>

After arriving in Brunei the auditing firm “KPMG announced it was examining the agency's outflows starting with 1984, the year BIA was chartered. But FORTUNE has obtained an internal government memo marking the probe's real initiation date as 1992. The distinction is significant: Jefri's biggest shopping spree began after 1992, while evidence exists that other officials may have dipped into the coffers in prior years. For example, an internal BIA document shows a $149 million transfer in 1990 to Mohamed Al Fayed, the London businessman long suspected of being a front for the Sultan. (Fayed is the father of Dodi, who perished in the car crash with Princess Diana.) In addition, a "confidential" 1993 letter from BIA's managing director refers mysteriously to two cash "transfers" totaling more than $11 million that were paid to his predecessor in 1990 and 1991. According to the letter, the transfers were made for a purpose "known only" to the recipient--who, as it happens, was just made a deputy on Aziz's task force probing BIA. <+>

Interviewing Prince Jefri

Richard Behar wrote in Fortune, “I lit the $400 cigar, a "1492" from Cuba, and tried to imagine a life filled with boundless wealth--with 30 houses spread around the world, a mistress to go with my four wives, countless serfs and lackeys, plus a superyacht called Tits. The cigar was a gift from Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei. An hour earlier, at the prince's heavily guarded London estate, I'd become the first journalist ever to interview the prodigal playboy.” His advisers “explained that I could never reveal their identities, that Jefri had never met with a reporter in his life, and that it was unlikely I would ever see him. One aide said his own family had been "threatened" by an adviser to the Sultan, who had demanded he abandon Jefri's cause. [Source: Richard Behar, Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

“I inhaled slowly, trying to make the cigar last forever, and reflected on one of the strangest interviews of my career. Jefri had acted as though he'd just been exposed to some kind of cognitive kryptonite: words, gestures, facial expressions--he reduced all of them to gibberish. Now I understood the warning I'd gotten beforehand. "You'll never be the same" after meeting the Bolkiah brothers, one of P.J.'s aides had told me bluntly. "They don't have a lot of thoughts. Jefri is the brightest, but everything is relative. There's been a concerted effort to keep people like you away from people like them. And it's not because they're busy." <+>

In late September 1998, “we were sitting together at his palatial estate, deep inside London's Regent Park. Jefri had dressed casually in sneakers, blue jeans, and a black polo shirt. He's a slightly built man, far more handsome than the clock-stopping Mohamed, and while his English is very good, his aides did much of the talking. The prince--flanked by a $160,000 pair of solid-gold tissue dispensers--spoke less in sentences than in syllables. He giggled and glared and cocked his head as if I'd just fallen through the roof in a full suit of armor. <+>

"Jefri is not geared for questions," explained an apologetic aide. "He is painfully shy," added another. Jefri did manage to say that he was "looking forward" to his return to Brunei, that he missed the Sultan, and that he was "upset, confused, disappointed" when his assets were suddenly seized. I asked how long he planned to stay in Brunei. "I'm very open," he responded. I tried another tack. Will the Sultan see you? "He knows I'm coming." Laughter filled the room, but I'd somehow missed the joke. Have the two of you spoken by phone? "Yes, it is good that way. He asked me about the weather in New York." <+>

“I wanted Jefri's views on the events swirling around Brunei. "You ask me? You were there." Again, more laughter. When I asked about Aziz and the conservatives, Jefri said that "they would have their own agendas." And what are those agendas? "You can tell me," the prince responded. Chuckles all around. Clearly, this was the stuff of history, so I pressed on. I told Jefri it seemed that certain government officials wanted his country to become more conservative. "They didn't tell me," he responded. I also told him it was obvious from my visit to Brunei that he had done many things to open up the society. "What did I do?" he asked, sounding alarmed and confused. The prince refused to criticize his brothers directly and declined to discuss BIA because of the country's secrecy laws. But when his advisers piped up to explain that Jefri had done "nothing mysterious or wrong" and that all his actions were approved by BIA's board, Jefri declared, "Thank you. That was wonderful." <+>

“After 45 minutes, my time had run out--a shame, since the interview had been going so well. An adviser told me Jefri would be canceling our photo session. He had a flu and didn't think he looked good enough to have his picture taken. Hoping to get the prince to reconsider, I told him he looked terrific. He laughed, spun around swiftly, and left the room.” <+>

Prince Jefri’s Children

On April 17, 2005, Jefri’s oldest daughter, Princess Hamidah, was married in Brunei to Jefri’s sister’s son, her first cousin. Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, According to his former barrister Thomas Derbyshire Jefri sent him and his fiancé faith Zama “to the wedding as his emissaries, and they sat at the family tables inside the sultan’s palace. Jefri then hosted a second wedding for Hamidah in the ballroom of London’s Grosvenor House, near the Dorchester, the sultan’s hotel. “It was a massive wedding,” says Derbyshire, who also attended that one with Zaman. “Jefri came with Micha Raines, and the sultan’s son Aziz turned up with Val Kilmer and Jerry Hall. Everybody was drinking Dom Pérignon, and there were millions and millions of dollars of tiaras and diamonds and emeralds.” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “Jefri named Princes Hakeem and Bahar as directors of the New York Palace. According to Zaman and Derbyshire, the big, burly princes are true heirs to Jefri’s life of extravagance. Rod Stewart performed at one of Hakeem’s birthdays, and when Bahar turned nine, the sultan threw a bash at Claridge’s in London, transforming a ballroom into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle headquarters. According to Fortune, when Hakeem wanted to learn football, Jefri imported N.F.L. stars Joe Montana and Herschel Walker to Brunei, at a cost of seven figures each, to teach him the game. Hakeem and his friends showed up in brand-new uniforms, the gargantuan prince weighing 300 pounds, trailed by a valet and guarded by a state security force. Hakeem was not able to catch the ball, so a teammate would hand it to him, and he would then shuffle down the field for an easy touchdown, because no one was allowed to tackle a prince. When Hakeem turned 18, his father gave him $1 billion as a birthday present, according to one of Zaman’s affidavits. Bahar, for his 16th birthday, received $400 million. (Of the money allegedly given to Jefri’s children, Stewart says, “I don’t know any of that to be true.”) *=*

Prince Jefri as Head of Brunei Investment Agency (B.I.A.)

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “In 1983 the sultan appointed Jefri head of the Brunei Investment Agency (B.I.A.), which manages the country’s vast oil revenues. Three years later he made him minister of finance. Jefri simultaneously ran his own conglomerate, the Amedeo Development Corporation (A.D.C., named for the artist Amedeo Modigliani, whose work he collects), which built roads, bridges, office blocks, power stations, and hotels at home and overseas. In Brunei, he built a school and a hospital, as well as a huge hotel complex and amusement park, and introduced satellite TV and his favorite London radio station. [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

In the 1990s an estimated $40 billion left B.I.A. accounts in "special transfers". Of that, $15 billion went to Jefri, $8 billion to the Sultan and $4 billion for government purposes. The other $14 billion remains untraced.

Prince Jefri either owned or operated a variety of businesses including the Asprey Group of London and a string of hotels, including the New York Palace Hotel, the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles, the Plaza Anthénée in Paris, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Dorchester Hotel in London. Asprey is a venerable London store founded in 1781 and designated the official jeweler of the Queen, the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales. Among other things it created the blue sapphire used in the film “Titanic.” +

By one count Prince Jefri controlled 250 companies in one way or another. Most were owned through Amedeo Development Corporation. His domestic holdings ranged from a cellular-phone system to an electric power station to one of the most expensive resorts ever constructed.

Prince Jefri: the Businessman Who Can’t Count?

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, Jefri’s attorney “Geoffrey Stewart groans at the Derbyshires’ portrayal of the prince as a financial mastermind: “Prince Jefri dropped out of school at 15. I’ve never seen him add numbers. He has no concept of money that I’ve seen. He has been raised to preside over things as a prince. But all this was run by other people in the Brunei civil service. In terms of hiding money, he certainly didn’t want the B.I.A. to know where he had his personal bank accounts. He wanted to keep his personal financial affairs private. Where he was not required to disclose assets, he wouldn’t. If there was any hiding of assets, it was done by his lawyer advisers.” Jefri’s corporate structures were set up by tax accountants in the 1980s, says Stewart, when Jefri was still on good terms with the sultan, “to help keep taxes down.” As for allegations of hidden art, cars, and jewels, he says, “I’ve certainly never seen it. It’s very hard to move that stuff.” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

“Jefri wouldn't know how to steal," an adviser told Fortune. "He has no sense of what money is worth." Richard Behar wrote in Fortune, “That much is obvious just based on his track record as a businessman. His foreign hotels are very successful, thanks to the management teams he has in place. But his 1995 purchase of Asprey, the English jeweler, for $385 million--nearly twice its market value at the time--was a disaster. Jefri apparently had never considered that the royals themselves had been Asprey's best customers. Once you factor out their business, what earnings multiple did Jefri pay? "Do you own a Cray computer?" asks an Asprey executive familiar with the deal. The company has been hemorrhaging money for two years and is now being restructured. [Source: Richard Behar,Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

“Jefri's dubious touch extended to his Brunei projects as well. Consider his Jerudong Park, possibly the world's largest free amusement park: There are cascading fountains, lush gardens, Italian-marble walkways, state-of-the-art roller coasters, and nonstop rock & roll. But where are the people? In a country where half the population is under 20, most of the time there aren't enough visitors to activate the rides. Jefri is trying to sell excitement to a nation of narcoleptics. Across the highway sits Jefri's even emptier Jerudong Park Hotel--a 600-room, $800 million compound that features a saltwater lagoon, a Nicklaus golf course, eight swimming pools, nine restaurants, and the world's biggest atrium. There is 24-karat gold-leaf detail throughout the hotel, and gold-plated fittings in every bathroom. The place was intended to be used, at least in part, for palace functions. But from a purely commercial standpoint, "at $500 per night and a 90 percent occupancy rate, it would take 60 years for them to get their money back," says one hotel expert who has analyzed the project. <+>

By all accounts, Jefri's worst move was to install his son Hakeem--a man who knows even less about business than he does about football--as the managing director of Amedeo. While I was in Brunei, one persistent rumor had the 25-year-old Hakeem under house arrest. This, it turns out, was a simple misunderstanding: "Hakeem can leave Brunei anytime he wants," laughs a source close to the court. "But he wouldn't know how to pick up the phone and take a commercial flight. So he probably feels trapped." <+>

Prince Jefri’s lawyers Faith Zaman and Thomas Derbyshire told Vanity Fair that was they worked with the prince, they say, little by little the prince showed them his hand. “He was [Brunei’s] finance minister for a reason: he is a very, very smart man,” says Zaman. “And he had hidden assets so well that the sultan, with all of his resources and all of his private investigators, couldn’t find [them].” The assets were registered in layer upon layer of “bearer shares,” according to Derbyshire, with “nominee directors” in jurisdictions around the world. Derbyshire adds, “Eventually we gained his trust, and then he opened up and we got to know everything: the art vaults full of paintings, the jewelry, gold, diamonds, bullion, and secret bank accounts.” *=*

Irregularities in Prince Jefri’s Businesses

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair,Prince Jefri’s former barrister Thomas Derbyshire and his fiancé, Faith Zaman, an investment banker, “alleged that they had unearthed documents showing that the hotel had been making large payments to individuals and companies that performed no services that they could determine. “These payments were made to banks in Switzerland and Liechtenstein,” Derbyshire wrote in an affidavit. Even more alarming, a $30 million mortgage had been taken out on the hotel. (Jefri claimed in an affidavit it was $35 million.) “But $25 million of this sum was repaid very quickly,” Derbyshire wrote. “Our further investigations revealed that a number of properties (which appeared as Prince Jefri’s assets on the freezing orders) had, in fact, been sold in breach of those injunctions.” (According to Stewart, the property had been sold without Jefri’s authorization.) [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

“Next Derbyshire visited Hotel Bel-Air. While he determined that the hotel was in good financial order, he found that at least $10 million worth of Jefri’s supposedly frozen properties in California had been sold. (A Los Angeles lawyer who represented Jefri’s real-estate interests declined to comment.) When Derbyshire presented his findings to the prince, he stated in an affidavit, Jefri had an easy explanation. He claimed that one of his previous attorneys had taken out the mortgage and sold the properties without his consent. Why didn’t the prince report him? According to Geoffrey Stewart, the prince is “conflict averse.” Stewart speculates, “Any kind of public proceeding sooner or later would get back to the B.I.A and Jefri by then heard that the B.I.A. was going to be coming after him, and I think his view was ‘Why create trouble for myself?’ ” *+*

“Having no reason to disbelieve Prince Jefri, Derbyshire and Zaman say, they continued to petition the courts on his behalf, eventually winning a ruling that he was indeed the owner of the New York Palace. According to the Derbyshires’ attorney, distributions from the Palace to Argent International, one of the prince’s companies, began flowing again, overseen by John Segreti.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Fortune magazine, Vanity Fair magazine, Brunei Tourism, Prime Minister's Office, Brunei Darussalam, Government of Brunei Darussalam, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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