C’mon: What’s $14,800,000,000 Between Family?

Prince JefriIn Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Mark Maremont ran the numbers on Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei, right, and his alleged $14.8 billion bum rush of the small, oil-drenched, former British protectorate’s treasury.

You’ve heard of Brunei, of course. It’s located in Southeast Asia, almost completely enwrapped within Malaysia, a little smaller than Delaware. It’s head, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, 61, is the world’s wealthiest monarch, with a fortune Forbes estimates at $22 billion. He lives in a $1.4 billion (in 1984 US dollars), 2 million-plus-square-foot palace with 1,788 rooms, including 257 bathrooms. His personal fleet of automobiles is believed to number between 3,000-5,000 cars, including 531 Mercedes-Benzes, 367 Ferraris, 362 Bentleys, 185 BMWs, 177 Jaguars, 160 Porsches, 130 Rolls-Royces, and 20 Lamborghinis. (Take that, ballers.)

Prince Jefri—uh, Prince Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Haji Jefri Bolkiah to you—is Hassanal’s youngest brother, the 53-year-old baby of the sultan’s three bros.

Apparently, for a number of years, Jefri served as finance minister and chairman of the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), where his role was to sock away the nation’s money, not stuff it in his socks. As well, since the sultan is an absolute monarch—reportedly, he recently had himself declared infallible under Bruneian law—the nation’s money is his money. So, he’s more than a little pissed that

much of the BIA’s money went to Prince Jefri. According to court documents, the prince spent $475 million on Rolls Royce cars, $78 million at Italian sports-car company Pininfarina SpA, and $900 million at British jeweler Asprey. He liked Asprey so much that in 1995 he bought the company, for $385 million. A firm owned by Prince Jefri paid $202 million for the Helmsley Palace hotel in 1993, using BIA funds.

Jefri also put family on the dole ($23 million to a father-in-law); bought more than twenty French Impressionist paintings, some at well over $20 million a pop; built a 180-ft Feadship yacht that he christened Tits; and, according to a 2001 BBC news article, somehow also found enough cash to grab two new Mercedes fire engines and an attack helicopter flight simulator.

As soon as the first yacht was done, he began making a 525-foot, $226 million superyacht, model below, to be called Golden Star. The project was ultimately scrubbed when the shipyard realized that Jefri’s big brother, the Sultan, had not O.K.’d the purchase. (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is finishing the boat, now named Dubai, after the country he rules.)

Golden Star model

Am I the only person in the room that thinks this is all psychotic? I obviously don’t know these guys, but do you get the feeling that, in a way, this has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with spoiled rival siblings who have no other way to communicate than with the only thing that doesn’t mean dirt in their world: cash?


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Curtis McCrea on 09.26.08 at 9:14 pm

I really liked that yacht better as Platinum!

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