Prince `kept 40 girls at Dorchester'

THE BROTHER of the world's richest man kept up to 40 prostitutes at London's Dorchester Hotel at any one time, the High Court heard yesterday.

The women were procured for Prince Jefri of Brunei by an English madam or brought in from the Far East under the pretence that they were servants.

The extraordinary details of Prince Jefri's lifestyle were outlined by his former emissary on the seventh day of a trial that could become one of the most expensive personal actions in British legal history.

Bob Manoukian, 53, and his brother Rafi, 44, are suing the prince for pounds 80m, claiming he failed to honour two deals. The Prince is counter-suing for pounds 100m, saying Rafi Manoukian exploited a friendship and made unreasonable profits out of him.

The Manoukian brothers say the 44-year-old prince reneged on a pounds 55m deal to buy the Adelphi in London's Strand and a pounds 25m verbal deal to renovate the first five storeys of the prince's London home at 45 Park Lane.

Bob Manoukian said in a written statement of his evidence that their relationship broke down because of the Prince's lifestyle.

"In 1993, Rafi told me that Prince Jefri had started to arrange for girls to be brought in from the USA. This seemed to me a serious mistake," he said.

"My view was that bringing in girls from the USA would be likely to lead to embarrassing publicity. I told Rafi that he should talk to Prince Jefri and warn him of the potential risk he was running but Prince Jefri told him that it was none of our business."

Mr Manoukian said Prince Jefri's conduct was "completely unacceptable by Western standards" and that he was concerned that there would be a rift in the relationship. "Once he came to believe that we were criticising him and disapproving of his behaviour and lifestyle, a breakdown in relations was unavoidable."

In June 1993, Mr Manoukian visited Brunei and saw the disco area at the Assurur (pleasure) Palace and some of the girls brought in for Prince Jefri and his friends. "Rafi and I waited outside the disco in the lobby area while the girls entertained their hosts. I was shocked to see Prince Jefri's young son Bahar and his teenage daughter in the Assurur Palace."

Mr Manoukian's evidence said Prince Jefri wanted to take over the upper floors of 45 Park Lane, the former Playboy Club, because it was close to the Dorchester which the Sultan of Brunei had bought in 1985. The prince subsequently paid pounds 21m.

"The apartments were convenient for the Dorchester, being across the road, and prostitutes could be brought into and taken out of the building in a discreet manner. "

Mr Manoukian said Prince Jefri was often late in settling his accounts and was "a significant commercial risk to us".

The court heard that the Brunei High Commission eventually paid one bill of pounds 1,331,065, the Brunei Investment Agency settled another of pounds 3,907,874 and Prince Jefri paid a bill of pounds 4,928,858.

The case continues.

Questions of taste, page 15