European aristocrat dies in notorious Thai jail

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The Independent Online

Christoph von Hohenlohe, a member of one of Europe's most illustrious aristocratic families, was buried yesterday in the southern Spanish resort of Marbella after dying in mysterious circumstances in a notorious Bangkok jail.

"Kiko" von Hohenlohe, 49, was a prince and member of the Agnelli family, the powerful Italian industrial dynasty. But he died earlier this month at the hospital unit of the squalid Klongprem Central Prison in Thailand.

His mother, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, 66, a well-known European socialite and former sister-in-law of the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, is demanding an autopsy and an investigation into the circumstances of her son's death. The Thai authorities have so far declined to open an inquiry.

Hospital sources have suggested the playboy aristocrat died from a blood infection or insulin deprivation. A glittering array of European aristocrats attended the funeral, as Von Hohenlohe was buried next to his father Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe at San Pedro de Alcántara, near Marbella.

Alfonso von Hohenlohe was famous for turning the former fishing village of Marbella, on the Costa del Sol, into an upmarket, fashionable resort for the Hollywood jet set and European aristocrats during the 1960s and 1970s.

His Marbella Club Hotel became a popular refuge from the paparazzi for the likes of Princess Grace of Monaco, and the actors James Stewart, Tony Curtis and Sean Connery. European royals were known to rub shoulders there with Arab sheikhs and South American dictators.

Christoph von Hohenlohe's grandparents on his mother's side were Prince Tassilo Egon Maria Karl George Leo von Fürstenberg and Clara Agnelli, a Fiat heiress.

Von Hohenlohe was arrested and jailed in Bangkok on 31 July on a charge of falsifying documents. The prince, who had travelled to Bangkok apparently for treatment to lose weight at a luxury health clinic, was due to return home to Hawaii, but was delayed by three days after failing to get on a flight.

As his exit visa had run out, he changed the date in pen so as to avoid more paperwork. However, this was spotted by officials and. Despite attempts to convince a judge that he had not intended to commit a crime, he was sent to Klongprem jail. Klongprem has been condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International for its inhumane conditions.

With up to 40 prisoners to a cell, Von Hohenlohe's health deteriorated rapidly in the overcrowded conditions. Though not a diabetic, his blood-sugar levels were abnormally high just before he died. The prince's brother, Hubertus von Hohenlohe, told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that his mother had only been able to visit him once before his death.

"It is all a bit strange. He was held in a small room with 40 inmates and no mattresses," said Hubertus, who travelled to Bangkok to try to get his brother out of jail. He added his brother had twice been denied bail. An unnamed prison official said: "Christoph von Hohenlohe died on 6 August. We've sent the details to the Swiss embassy. He was here on charges of possessing false documents."

The Swiss embassy in Bangkok, which acts for Liechtenstein, Von Hohenlohe's birthplace, confirmed it was investigating the death but refused to divulge any details. An embassy spokesman said: "It is a matter of privacy. At this point we don't see the case escalating into a diplomatic issue."

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