The black sheep of a fabulously rich royal family with links to Prince Charles has sued two British advisers, claiming that the pair conned him out of millions of dollars.
The exiled brother of the Sultan of Brunei, Prince Jefri, who has been accused of squandering the wealth of his tiny South-east Asian homeland, filed the lawsuit in a New York court last Friday.
The Prince, who counts the Palace Hotel in New York among his assets, claims the Britons - Faith Zaman and her barrister husband, Thomas William Derbyshire - bilked him of millions through property deals. A Thomas William Derbyshire is listed on the website of a Bedford Row chambers in London as a barrister with "extensive experience in defending and leading in murder, major robberies, terrorist cases, white-collar fraud, money laundering, large drug importations, and tax evasion" and also as "currently advising HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei in litigation".
The lawsuit came just a day after the Prince gave an interview to a London newspaper in which he spoke about the long-running and complex disputes with his family. Prince Jefri, once a minister and head of the Brunei Investment Authority, had been accused of creaming off billions and maintaining an absurdly lavish lifestyle.
It was said he had a passenger jet converted to carry polo ponies, had gold-plated toilet brushes, and a yacht called Tits. The Prince denies many of the excesses, telling The Daily Telegraph last week: "I am no angel ... but I have been the fall guy."
Not that his brother, the Sultan, is a skinflint. His subjects may enjoy free education, pensions and healthcare, but his gold-domed palace at Nurul Imam is larger than the Vatican, with 1,788 rooms and a banqueting hall that seats 5,000. He is also a friend of Prince Charles.
Prince Jefri hired the Britons in 2004, paying them $1m a year. Ms Zaman assumed high-level positions in companies in charge of the Prince's vast real estate holdings, according to the lawsuit filed in US District Court in Manhattan.
In 2005, Ms Zaman and Mr Derbyshire allegedly sold Prince Jefri's 28-acre estate on Long Island - then valued at $26m - to another defendant in the suit, Westfields Invest Limited LLC, for $11.8m, but the money was never transferred to the Prince. The couple also are accused of diverting $5m of the Prince's money from a real estate sale to buy a Manhattan Beach, California, property for $2.2m .
Ms Zaman, 30, became managing director of the Palace Hotel in February, and Prince Jefri accuses her of setting up a fake London company from which the hotel bought $4m-worth of plasma-screen television sets. The suit says she sent the money to her bank account in Monaco.
The pair also fraudulently charged "hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of dollars" in personal expenses to the Prince's accounts and paid a family member "an exorbitant salary for a virtual no-show" job, the suit charges.
Ms Zaman and Mr Derbyshire were not available for comment on Friday.Reuse content