Junk shop snaps reveal Khashoggis' plight

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The Independent Online

For a man once synonymous with the high life, from multiple mansions to casino visits costing millions, a missing set of photographs should be of little consequence to Adnan Khashoggi.

But the absent snapshots were apparently causing an unusual degree of concern yesterday to the Saudi Arabian magnate, who was famed during the Seventies and Eighties for his fabulous wealth.

The one-time highroller, whose visits to the gaming tables of Las Vegas, the Côte d'Azur and London became the stuff of legend, has allegedly fallen victim to a plot to blackmail him for £30,000.

The extortion bid is reportedly being made for the return of the set of pictures after Mr Khashoggi was approached by an individual claiming to have the photographs in his or her possession.

Scotland Yard said last night it was not aware of any extortion attempt against the reclusive businessman, who has in recent years avoided publicity.

Indeed, it was only through the bizarre combination of a junk shop, a second set of missing pictures and a conversation with his former wife that the saga came to light.

Soraya Khashoggi, whose marriage to the diminutive tycoon ended in a divorce settlement reputedly worth more than £60m in 1982, confirmed the blackmail plot after some of her own personal effects went astray.

A diary and set of photograph albums belonging to Mrs Khashoggi, who married her former husband at the age of 21, turned up this week among the dusty books and bedsteads in a London antiques store. The journal dates from 1985, chronicling a life of leisure and love affairs, with photographs as the Khashoggis toured between London, Paris, St Tropez, Venice and Beverly Hills. Soraya has since fallen on less salubrious times, running a flower shop in Fulham, west London, where she lives with her daughter Octavia, 19. Her 21-year-old daughter, Petrina, whose father is the former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken, was in a clinic that specialises in substance abuse last week.

When approached by a newspaper after it found the diaries in the Great Expectations shop in Shepherds Bush, Soraya said she was still in touch with Mr Khashoggi. "Adnan rang me and said that someone had approached him for the return of photographs for £30,000. I said to him, 'Are you being blackmailed?' and he said 'Yes'. Adnan rang me the night before last and I told him I had heard the [Evening] Standard had some photographs and I said, 'Is the man still trying to get money from you?' He said 'Yes'."

Neither Mrs Khashoggi nor her former husband was available to comment last night. There is no suggestion of a link between the appearance of the diary and photographs in the antiques store, and the pictures involved in the alleged blackmail.

The journal alludes to two affairs but the more mundane entries are what provide the true insight into the life of a millionaire divorcee: "Took the children to Regent's Park Zoo. Tried to collect my prescription and glasses (both places closed). Filled the Rolls and had it washed. Tea at home. Dinner with Lady Foxwell."