Brunei vows to keep pursuing big-spending prince

  • World
  • Thursday, 09 Feb 2006

By Vivi Lin and Benjamin Kang Lim

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The Southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei has vowed to pursue its exiled Prince Jefri to return more of the billions of dollars he is accused of squandering while head of its state investment arm. 

The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) said its former boss, under threat of U.K. contempt of court proceedings, had finally handed over information it was demanding through the British courts on how he was able to fund his international lifestyle. 

The prince, younger brother of the king, is reported in the British press to be still living the high life, with homes in London, New York and Paris. He was sacked as agency head in 1998 after his conglomerate, Amedeo, collapsed under massive losses. 

"After the contempt proceedings were served on HRH Prince Jefri, he then produced a great deal of further information about his bank accounts and as to the financial support he was receiving from others to fund his lifestyle," the agency said in a statement issued in Brunei late on Wednesday. 

It denied British press reports this week that Brunei, which has become wealthy through exploiting its vast petroleum reserves, had suffered a legal defeat by withdrawing the contempt proceedings. 

"In withdrawing the proceedings, the BIA had certainly not ruled out the possibility of bringing fresh contempt proceedings if new evidence becomes available that HRH Prince Jefri has still failed to disclose all his assets," it added. 

The agency said it was now awaiting the outcome of its request for a Brunei court order forcing Prince Jefri to hand over all his remaining assets under the terms of the May 2000 out-of-court settlement with it and the king. 

Under the settlement Prince Jefri agreed to hand over 3 billion pounds ($5.23 billion) of his assets, which were sold at auction in London in 2001, the Times newspaper said this week. 

Those assets included 400 Victorian lamp-posts, two unused Mercedes-Benz fire engines, several hundred Louis XIV gilt chairs, a fleet of forklift trucks, jewellery and 16,000 tonnes of Italian marble, the newspaper said. 

The agency said on Thursday that Prince Jefri had still not surrendered all the assets agreed to under the settlement. 

"Prince Jefri has refused to transfer many of the assets which he had agreed to return to the BIA. The BIA is continuing to pursue this claim vigorously," it said. 

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