Friday, June 13, 2008

:: Arrest warrant... Prince Jefri

Prince Jefri Bolkiah
Arrest warrant for Prince Jefri
LONDON (AP) - A British judge issued an arrest warrant for His Royal Highness Prince Jefri Bolkiah after he failed to show up for a court hearing Wednesday.
HRH Prince Jefri is enmeshed in long-running legal proceedings over billions of dollars he is alleged to have embezzled while he was Brunei's finance minister.

Jefri, dubbed the "Playboy Prince" for his lavish lifestyle, was due in court Wednesday to face allegations that he violated a court order to hand over three billion pounds (US$5.9 billion) in cash and assets to the Brunei government's investment Arm, Brunei Investment Agency (BIA).

His lawyer, James Lewis, told the High Court hearing that he did not know where his client was, but thought he was in France or Monaco.
"My understanding is that he does not mean to attend these proceedings at all," Lewis said.
Judge Peter Smith issued a warrant for the prince's arrest and warned that he faced jail if he was apprehended.
"If he is arrested it will take an advocate of great skill to persuade me that he should have bail," Smith said.

The scandal became public in 2000 when the Brunei government accused Prince Jefri of embezzling nearly US$16 billion while he was finance minister between 1986 and 1998.

Prince Jefri reached an out-of-court settlement with the government in 2000, agreeing to pay back the money he allegedly used to buy hotels and other expensive assets.

But the Brunei Investment Agency, formerly headed by Prince Jefri, launched court proceedings in 2004, saying the Prince had not transferred ownership of five US and European properties - including the New York Palace Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles - and a trust fund as required by the settlement.

Last year a British court ordered him to hand over the disputed assets. Prince Jefri, 53, left Brunei in 2004 and has mainly lived in London, where he owns St John's Lodge, one of the city's most lavish homes. Prince Jefri has denied any wrongdoing, saying he had the authority to use state funds.