A Prince of Brunei Takes On 2 Former Advisers
The case of Casa de Meadows Inc. v. Zaman begins on Monday in New York State Supreme Court, pitting Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei against his former legal advisers, Thomas Derbyshire and Faith Zaman.
Prince Jefri, a brother of the sultan of Brunei, was for years the country’s financial chief — until an external audit alleged that the prince had embezzled billions of dollars. To avoid criminal prosecution, Prince Jefri agreed to turn over his holdings, including his majority stake in the British jeweler Asprey and the yacht.
Now Prince Jefri is accusing his former advisers of having cheated him out of money. Mr. Derbyshire and Ms. Zaman, who are husband and wife, are accused of skimming cash from real estate deals like the $11 million sale of the prince’s Long Island home. But the alleged embezzlement was also more prosaic, including 35 meals at McDonald’s, according to New York magazine.
Prince Jefri has considerably more expensive tastes. Beyond amassing the $400 million stake in Asprey and the New York Palace Hotel, he is also accused of hosting a 40-woman harem, the subject of a tell-all book by a former New York University student. And then there are the four pornographic statues of the prince and a female friend that he is seeking to bar from the courtroom.
The tabloid-ready trial of the year opens November 8 in New York State Supreme Court:Casa de Meadows, Inc. v. Zaman, pitting a member of Brunei’s royal family against legal advisers who, he says, bilked him out of millions while managing various assets on his behalf. Herewith, some background.
Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei, age 55 or so (his birth date is hard to confirm); brother of the Sultan of Brunei. Prince Jefri was Brunei’s Finance minister—the royal family’s money manager—until his brother got fed up with his … lifestyle choices. In 2000, after he was accused of misappropriating billions in funds over fifteen years, a settlement was reached that required him to return most of his assets, including a controlling stake in Asprey—the British jeweler—which cost him nearly $400 million to acquire, and his$500 million yacht called Tits.
His Brother, the Sultan
The prince and his brother are no longer fighting, London’s Daily Mail reported last year, perhaps because “the prince … was planning to reveal embarrassing information about his brother.” The sultan’s legendary collection of more than 7,000 cars, according to the Daily Mirror, includes604 Rolls-Royces,574 Mercedes-Benzes, 452 Ferraris, 382 Bentleys, 179 Jaguars, and21 Lamborghinis.
Thomas Derbyshire and Faith Zaman, British husband and wife. They served as legal advisers to Prince Jefri beginning in 2004, but in 2006, the prince turned on them, claiming they defrauded him in real-estate deals and charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to his corporate credit cards for, among other things, $420 at the Singing Star tattoo parlor in Venice, California, and 35 meals at McDonald’s. “The words ‘faithless servants’ do not do justice to the scope of their perfidy,” says the prince’s complaint. The couple deny the accusations and say they used the credit cards to cover expenses for the prince and two of his sons.
His Old Hangout
The prince and the barristers battled over management of—and expenditures at—the New York Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue, which the prince owned. In 2008, a New York judge ordered Jefri to return control of the hotel to Brunei.
His Alleged Harem
In another lawsuit, the prince was accused of keeping a 40-girl harem at the Dorchester Hotel, not far from his $55 million home in London. (NYU dropout Jillian Lauren wrote a book about her time with Prince Jefri, entitled Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, in which she declared: “I knew I was a hooker, but somehow I felt like Cinderella.”)
… And the Judge
Veteran judge Ira Gammerman, who presided over Woody Allen’s lawsuit against producer Jean Doumanian. Actual dialogue:
JUDGE TO ALLEN: Stop talking.
ALLEN: Stop talking?
JUDGE: I’m the director here.