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Prince Jefri of Brunei settles out of court in pounds 180m claim

THE most expensive civil action in English legal history, between Prince Jefri of Brunei and two of his closest emissaries, has been settled out of court.

Lawyers for the men, who were suing each other for claims totalling pounds 180m, confirmed last night that they had reached an "amicable" settlement following astonishing courtroom revelations of sexual and financial excesses.

A spokesman for Bob Manoukian, 50, and his brother Rafi, 42, who were claiming that Prince Jefri failed to honour two property deals worth pounds 80m, said yesterday: "An agreement was reached over the past couple of days. The case has now been settled amicably." He said confidentiality clauses prevented both sides from elaborating on the settlement.

One of the driving forces behind the deal is thought to be the reluctance of Prince Jefri to face cross-examination over his private life. In the early stages of the case at the High Court in London, Bob Manoukian, the 128th richest man in Britain, told the court that the Prince kept up to 40 prostitutes at a time at the Dorchester Hotel, which he owns. Mr Manoukian, a Christian, claimed that the relationship with Prince Jefri had broken down on religious grounds and because he had criticised the Prince's actions.

In return, Prince Jefri , the 44-year-old son of the Sultan of Brunei, the richest man in the world, accused the Manoukian brothers of overcharging him for goods by 300 per cent. He was suing the brothers for pounds 100m.

Based in London and worth about pounds 250m, the Manoukians specialise in property investment. The court heard that they conducted an estimated pounds 520m in deals on the prince's behalf for the purchase of property, a Renoir painting, objets d'art and an aircraft.

The brothers claimed the prince reneged on a pounds 55m deal to buy and operate the pounds 190m Adelphi office building in London and a pounds 25m verbal agreement to refurbish the lower floors of the former Playboy Club at 45 Park Lane.

The brothers said the prince had planned to turn these into a "London Palace" next to the Dorchester.

The settlement is expected to save six months of court time and more than pounds 1m in legal fees. Prince Jefri is also being sued in the US by Shannon Marketic, a former Miss USA who claims she was held captive in a Brunei palace for use by his friends as a "sex slave".