56-year-old Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bokiah, a man that is known in these parts
only as "His Majesty" rules the country both benevolently but with an
iron fist. His yearly income from oil produced in this tiny country, which is
located on the Island of Borneo, is almost incomprehensible and shows no particular
signs of slowing down as oil prices have recently gone through the roof. His family
has been ruling this Delaware sized country of about 300,000, for six centuries,
and is thus probably the longest reigning dynasty on
earth. The country is so small that it does not even have a central bank but that
hardly seemed necessary when the royal family kept most of their assets in cash.
fact that today, Brunei is only a blip on the map, in the 15th,16th and 17th centuries,
the country's control extended over large parts of Borneo and the southern Philippines.
However, this moment of glory was short-lived. The country was divided in half
in after the British took over in 1888 and in that year made the country a protectorate.
It took almost a century for the country to gain its independence but this occurred
in 1984 after several false starts. The natives were becoming restless and
in 1962 instead of the British plan to make Brunei part of the Malaysian Federation,
they opted for revolution. The cagey Sultan suspended the constitution and opted
today is a tad smaller than the U.S. State of Delaware, making it almost unnoticeable.
Agriculture is not a big thing in this country as there are only about 7 square
miles of arable land. The country from an ethnic point of view is primarily Malaysian
with Chinese and other groups making up a small minority of the primarily Muslim
population. The King's father, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin
Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam abdicated the thrown
on October 5th, 1967. His eldest son, the Crown Prince became King in his stead.
Haji Jr. had gone to school at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and was a
Captain in the British Army when summoned back to run the country.
Government of Brunei depicts the King as having kryptonite running through his
veins, "His Majesty takes great interest ion sports, including polo in which
he has excelled in matches against international teams both locally and outside
of the State. One of His Majesty's remarkable achievements was the setting up
of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah foundation in 1992. The foundation is a gift
of His Majesty to his people and is devoted to among other things, financing research-related
works particularly in the fields of knowledge. (Whatever all that means) His Majesty
is married to Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajjah Salenha and Her Royal
Highness Pengiran Isteri Hajjah Mariam. He has ten children - four princes and
six princesses." This is indeed a special person.
country does not allow the drinking of alcohol by the population nor anyone else
for that matter, at least most of the time. However, there have been rumors to
the effect that liquor has been known to flow rather freely when the King,
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and
Yang Di-Pertun of Brunei Darussalam, throws one of his regularly scheduled
sex parties. Whilst there is little nightlife in the entire country, the
Brunei Palace has been known to really start to rumble when the chartered planes
land, more often than not, bringing in the willing lovely ones from abroad.
However, the fact that there is virtually no nightlife here and that sexual and
alcoholic high jinks are reserved for a chosen few, is not necessary all the fat
lady wrote. There are no income tax or in reality, taxes of any kind in this country.
The standard of living is obscenely high and downtown Brunei looks like the vision
of Alice In Wonderland with a series of magnificent structures hyphenating the
in exchange for sticking to their knitting and not getting any ideas of voting
for the other party, the populace receives free healthcare, education, high wages,
cheap loans and numerous other perks. In other words, there is nothing to do here,
nowhere to go or nothing you can do about it, but what is left can be done with
a certain panache. Nowhere in the world can you do so little so cheaply.
government is supposed to be a constitutional monarchy but that is hardly the
case. While "His Majesty" is not a bad sort, he suspended the countryâ€™s
legislature in 1962 because of revolutionary fears and neither the legislature
nor the country's constitution has ever shown the slightest sign of reappearing
in the four decades since.
of this suspension of various governmental activities, the overworked Sultan of
Brunei has had to take on new responsibilities on a regular basis. When one of
his lieutenants dies, there is no government in place to a name a successor and
naturally, the job falls on the broad shoulders of Hassanal himself. "He
has become the self-appointed prime minister, finance minister, defense minister,
police superintendent and chancellor of the national university. However, autocracy
has been good to Bruneians. They pay no income tax. Education and health care
are virtually free. And despite its generosity, Bruneis government has no
debt." () This is an amazing statistic when you add to that, the fact that
fully one-half of the employed people of Brunei work for the government.
royal familys fortunes had a major uptick when oil was discovered here in
1929. Since that date, the flow of approximately 207,000 barrels of oil a day
() has been unceasing and many had believed that it would continue forever. This
will certainly not be the case, and as time runs out, alternatives are hurriedly
being sought to replace that dependence. However, the Sultan has seen to it that
his people have been benevolently taken care of from the substantial amount of
oil that the countrys wells are still producing. With that kind of income,
if a little slips through the cracks now and then is not a major concern. A wise
ruler knows there is always plenty more behind that and whats the big deal
about some falling between the cracks every now and then? The oil riches provided
the good life for the king as well as his polo playing, loyal brother Jefri and
their families -- and when we say the good life, we really, really mean the good
life. The brothers are not beyond importing top Hollywood female stars, models
and actors like Michael Jackson for semi-private sessions, both for bedroom and
Among other recent sexual imports was
a former Miss USA who was flown in along with a cadre of other pretties, each
better looking than the next. However, it appears that they were not told what
they would be doing in Brunei and whom they would be doing it for. Apparently,
these unsuspecting girls believed that they were being flown to Brunei and were
going to be paid fantastic salaries for their sterling abilities at the
art of conversation. Officials who were paying the ladies the big bucks
expected that they understood the fact that they would be performing various
forms of sexual gymnastics for both the Sultan and his brother, however,
those facts got lost in the fine print in the contract and the American
girls promptly filed a lawsuit on returning to this country, charging that they
were being held in Brunei as sex slaves. The lawsuit was naturally dismissed because
all of the named parties claimed diplomatic immunity. Beside his regular assortment
of beautiful imports, the Sultan has two wives, each with a magnificent castle
to keep them warm on nights when "His Majesty" is out with the boys
or the girls as the case may be. One of the castles is a small item of 1,788 rooms
that is larger than the Vatican.
Beautiful women were not
the only substantive import that regularly arrived in Brunei. Argentina had created
a literal shuttle of magnificently expensive polo ponies that seemed to satisfy
the royal families taste for the best in everything including their love of the
that game. The Jerudong Park Polo Club with its immaculate landscape, its exotic
stables and magnificent clubhouse looked more like a castle than a playing field.
The six hundred-room hotel that is located within the Jerudong complex cost a
cool billion dollars to build and the gold leaf that is on its wall is the real
McCoy. Other odds and ends that adorn the polo complex are a massive saltwater
lagoon; a Jack Nicklaus designed gold course and one of the highest-tech amusement
parks on earth. All-important toys for the Sultan when he needs a change of pace
from his busy schedule.
Moreover, the country has an infrastructure
that just does not stop. You see, the Kings loyal brother owned this construction
company, Amedeo and that company employs nearly 10% of the people in the country
all by itself, and it built and built and built without any sign of slowing down.
But hark, the King has closed the company, leaving unpaid bills of almost $1 billion
and unfinished construction of nearly $3 billion. Worst of all, the people who
were once working for the Kings brother are now out of work, which takes
Brunei from the nation with the lowest unemployment up to the level of the socialized
Europeans, like Germany and France, in one fell swoop. Moreover, Royal Brother
Jefri, the First Brother who had always been so loyal and built the infrastructure,
well, nobody has heard from him for a long time. Then there are the ugly rumors
that, having stolen about $30 billion; he had taken off to start his own country.
Its just a business. (It is interesting to note that
it is now illegal in the Democratic State of Brunei to discuss how much the country
lost because of first brother Jefri. The crime can be punished with death.
it came to light that in addition to the almost $4 billion hole in the dike at
Amedeo, there is also a short fall of somewhere between $3 and $4 billion dollars
at the Brunei Investment Agency and another $5 billion loss on the familys
investments in Asia. These companies were also under the aegis of the
good prince Jefri. The First Brother also helped out various regional governments
in what appears to be a non-refundable loan of $2 billion and oversaw Bruneis
foolhardy attempt to stabilize local currencies, including those of Malaysia,
Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, with almost kamikaze like tenacity.
Today it appears that on
each plane arriving in Brunei, the only ones getting off the airplanes are accountants
carrying their ever present black bags that contain ominous accoutrements such
as paper, pencils and adding machines. They have been hired
y the king to access the damage cause by the noble "First Brother."
The have uncovered Brunei it seems, also has another mysterious company
whose workings were unknown to the general public. This company was known was
the Brunei Investment Agency, (BIA) which is in charge of investing the money
from the countrys oil income and run by the Kings loyal brother, Jefri
who was also in charge at Amedeo Development. While the Sultan may have enjoyed
Jefri company at sexual festivities, as a person anointed to handle the countrys
finances, Jefri was an unmitigated disaster and much of Bruneis oil income
mysteriously found its way in his pockets.
had indeed been making a bunch or really bad investments while simultaneously
pocketing a substantial amount of large green. However,
eventually the men with the black bags were able to determine where the money
had gone and when his big brother got the appalling news, he was told that the
party was at end. A deal was eventually worked out between the brothers that Jefri
would give back all of the money he had slipped into his pockets in a reasonably
constructed exchange for a combination of not being executed and the small allowance
of $300,000 per month. A big comedown for the hard charging Jefri, but on the
other hand, the alternative would have been even worse.
Week in their April 3, 2000 issue described the ensuing battle in detail. "On
February 21, the government sued Jefri in Brunei High Court for the funds he allegedly
"misappropriated." Government lawyers then filed injunctions-- in Brunei
and London --freezing Jefri's assets. Now, both sides are drawing battle lines
across the U.S. and Europe to fight what place watchers in Bandar Seri Begawan,
Brunei's humid capital, are calling "the mother of all legal battles."
three brothers, says Jefri is accused of making of with $9 billion. John M. Callagy,
a lawyer at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP in New York, says it's $40 billion --
and that the charges are false. Kelley Drye represents Amedeo Hotels Ltd., one
of the 68 companies the government contends Jefri controls."
acts are estimated by the accountants with their black bags to have cost a country
that many of them had never even heard of, something on the order of tens of billions
of dollars. Add to that, the futile cost of the peg that the Brunei was continuing
to protect, between Bruneis currency and the Singapore dollar. As Senator
Everett Dirkson said many years ago about the U.S. budget, "A billion here
and billion there, and soon you are talking about real money." When the accountants
finally gave the Sultan, the news of how bad things had gotten, he was literally
reduced to tears, but naturally, he was unwilling to give up none of his toys
and certainly cannot be blamed for that. Instead, he came up with the fabulous
idea of giving tourists rides on his fabled polo ponies for $20 a pop.
he indicated would replace the treasurys shortfall in no time at all. (The
Sultan obviously never studied mathematics economics. When the accountants explained
to him that it would take upwards of three-thousand millennia to balance the countrys
books with that scheme, he wondered out loud that if also allowed them to have
tours of the palace, the polo grounds, and the castles, maybe this would make
ends meet. Worst of all, the country was forced to issue bonds for the first time
in its history along with allowing tourists to play golf at Sultans own
fabled Jack Nicklaus course and take in the rides at the Sultans personal
"His Majesty" believed that the
world had come to an end and blamed his brother for the whole catastrophe. The
Sultan had come to the conclusion that tourism was a viable alternative to the
black gold that the country had been pumping for over 70-years. After all, the
Sultan said, we are right next door to the Borneo Rain Forests and after the tourists
get all wet trumping through the mud, they will want to relax in our billion-dollar
hotel and play golf on our first-class Jack Nicklaus Gold Course. "Not so
fast," said the tourism consultants. First of all, the prices here in Brunei
are sky high, this country can certainly not be sold as a bargain resort and in
the meantime, what about the fact liquor is totally banned in this country, which
probably eliminates any chance of attracting a substantial number of the world
alcoholics, a significant population in itself.
It was further
pointed out, that the country was probably 17 hours by plane from any location
on the American continent, a long drink of water not to be able to at least get
a glass of wine. One of the tourism consultants suggested that if the King wanted
to provide sex shows to visitors, the country could become a sexual Disney Land.
This suggestion was immediately quashed because of Muslim law, which bans this
type of activity. Another idea that was immediately vetoed was to tell the world
of a delicacy that can only be found in Borneo. This extraordinary dish consists
of "Sago worms (actually big fat beetle larvae)
These larvae are creamy
white and usually fried so that they are crispy outside and creamy soft inside."
() Although the Sultan found it hard to believe, his public relations people indicated
that tourists would not be enthusiastic to know that the Sago worms were considered
tasty in Borneo. Another idea of the Sultans that was rejected equally out of
hand was the fact that Brunei restaurants serve the best Monitor Lizard soufflé
on the entire island of Borneo.
A trove of other formerly
inconceivable concepts were put on the drawing board. These included a massive
series of privatizations including the countrys telephone system and airport.
This proposal although seemingly logical was temporarily dismissed because the
country has no facility to act as a sales agent for such a grandiose scheme. It
was pointed out that first, however, Brunei has to develop its own stock market
to facilitate these transactions. Discussion had reached the point to frenzy and
an unheard of concept, toll roads was put on the table and unanimously accepted
by the planning board. In spite of many roads not going very fair and leading
nowhere, construction of the nations first is expected to be started soon.
Brunei Government, employer of last resort, has given up that role and has frozen
hiring. "The government has replaced its pension plan with a national fund
that applies to non-government workers as well, all to encourage more civil servants
to take the plunge to the private market. In another move intended to bring the
country some independence from oil, the government is pushing shrimp and poultry
farms along with dot-coms and pharmaceutical research, according to Matdana Jaafar,
director of the ministrys planning and industrial promotion department."
() The Sultan indicated that the people of Brunei were both industrious and highly
educated, and if fired from their jobs with no unemployment insurance available,
they would be resourceful and start building private industries, which would eventually
However, in spite of everyone's best
efforts, there was just not enough money to go around and other sources of revenue
had to be discovered. Prince Jefri Bolkiah had literally had spent his
way into oblivion and the kingdom was tottering under the weight of his excesses.
The King had hired the once prestigious accounting firm of
Arthur Andersen to sort out the mess. However, somewhere along the way, Andersen
seems to have gone over the deep end on this and other matters straining the credibility
of the end-product.
However, eventually, the
accountants had finished their work, and the king was given the bad news was that
unless there was a lot more than just a lot of belt tightening, the country could
fail. Moreover, it turns out that Jefri had purchased everything that he thought
he would need for himself for the period to last well into the middle of the twenty-fifth
century, and in many cases beyond it. That was not the whole problem though, it
was that he had not only bought the top of the line, but when he determined what
he wanted he had most of it made to his specs, increasing the price by three-fold
again. Besides everything Jefri bought
that had been apparent, there was much that wasnt readily visible, and gradually
as an inventory was made, the extent of the problem became obvious.
the economically challenged prince was concerned that certain morsels that were
far from necessities would never escape his spending pallet, and when no one was
watching he stocked up on those items with a reckless abandon.
For example, Jefri had been told that there was this immense quantity of
exquisite marble that was available, however
if it was ever sold to another purchaser, the 8,000 tons could not be replaced.
While we will be the first to admit that the marble was unquestionably first class
material, whoever Jefri had absolutely no need for it at the time. However, while
he couldnt see a present need for any additional marble he became extremely
worried, a lack of it could be a disaster. Having made that determination, he
purchased the trove of marble and put it in storage, in spite of the fact that
he might never even view it again. The shipping and storage costs of the marble
would have supported the average city palatially for a lifetime, a consideration
that Jefri did not take into account.
the marble was not Jefris only purchase that was made just in case. He became
extremely enamored with the company that was Britains jeweler to the royal
family, Asprey. His fervor rose to such a pitch that he determined that in order
to first call on all of its designs and finished products he would buy the company.
Jefri paid a cool $300 million for Asprey a company that at best may have gone
for $100 in the open market with a less dedicated purchaser. There was no question
that the Prince was spending as though he felt that the black gold that was coming
out of the ground would never end. This is in spite of the consistent reports
by Royal Dutch geologists that the oil reserves were falling dangerously low.
his psychotic state It turns out that Prince Jefri was still on a binge when his
brother at the suggestion of the accountants and consultants shut him down at
a time that many of the bills for purchases he had made had still never been paid.
The accountants then suggested that a gigantic auction be held and all of the
excess goods that the prince had purchased, be sold in a sale that would last
as long as there was still unneeded merchandise to unload. With ten-thousand lots
to get rid of, this was indeed a prodigious task however in this way, at least
the country would get some idea of the market price of the items as opposed to
what the prince had been charged and there still were 300 unpaid creditors to
consultants felt that in the case where the prince had been grossly overcharged,
there may be some wiggle room available to the county relative to those creditors
and if nothing else, possibly a negotiated settlement could be worked out over
a period of time. The auction was held with great fan fare and the people came
from all over the world if for no other reason to gawk at the Jefri museum of
overindulgence. In spite of achieving a substantial attendance, it was difficult
to find buyers at any price for some of the princes excesses and he often
indulged by the gross. Some buyers possible could have been found for one or two
of an item but when there were hundreds of identical copies of the same thing
all inlaid in gold and jewels.
example, it was not readily apparent what to do with the matching pair of Mercedes-Benz
fire trucks that were considered such luxuries they it did not bring one bid.
That along with hundreds of other vehicles (Jefri during his purchased thousands
of vehicles over his spending career) was left in the plaster factory warehouse
where the auction was held with agents scratching their heads trying to figure
out what to do with the magnificent monstrosity when the bidding had ended. For
a country of only a tad over 300,000 people, this vehicle seemed to be strange
to say the least. Some said that it was personally available should a fire break
out in any on of the princes residences and he had many. After all, the
man had no less than thirty-five children by a mixture of numerous wives, concubines,
mistresses and girl friends.
there was the case of the 12-foot high rocking horse. Although it made up only
one of the more than 10,000 items that would be disposed of by the auctioneers
hammer, the item seemed to be shrouded in mystery. What would one do with a rocking
horse that big, it was impossible to mount and even it one could get on the wooden
beast, falling off would have resulted in severe internal injuries. Moreover,
this certainly was not a plaything as it would have been certainly too dangerous
for children and it the lumbering animal figure was not finely carved enough to
be a work of art. What then was this thing? Not a work of art, not a toy and certainly
not a statue with all of its moving parts? Those at the auction called it a Jefrimobile.
It didnt go anywhere, it wasnt pretty to look at, it took up substantial
space and cost a lot of money to maintain. Undoubtedly, the princes alter-ego.
there were the in-home flight simulators for both a Comanche attack helicopter
and an Airbus A340 commercial plane. Naturally everybody can use a multi-million
dollar full service flight simulator which came equipped with all of the technical
personnel needed to make the thing work. These folks had to be brought over from
the factory and housed in hotel while they waited for the day that the prince
would use his toy. We are led to believe that the day never came. Although the
prince made no public excuse for any of his purchases, when asked why he needed
the contraption, he replied that he had a number of planes and needed to maintain
his razor sharp reflexes and while that statement made some sense when you consider
that the under-privileged prince had 17 airplanes, none of which had anything
to do with the aircraft which the simulator was designed for.
were other abominations in the princes collection, the couch shaped like
a Cadillac automobile and the set of gold-plated toilet-bowl brushes. Not only
did someone see him coming but they were able to convince the lad that he really
needed this stuff. However you really cant blame him, when you have nothing
to do all day but spend money, you can run out of things to buy fairly quickly.
The princes spending on non-essential items was estimated by the accountants
at a cool $750,000 per day over a period of 10-years. Jefri supposedly looked
at spending the money in the countrys treasury as his manifest destiny,
and often worked in dedicated fashion at his job morning, noon and night. After
all, why on earth would any one person need multiple professional bowling alley
machines? We can certainly understand someone that had everything wanting their
own bowling alley, but to have dozens of these toys for ones personal use
seems certainly to be pushing the envelope a tad too far.
guess the same questions could be asked about the multiple purchases of grand
pianos by this non-musically inclined champion global class spender. Or the confluence
of pizza ovens that showed up when the accountants began their inventory. These
were of the quality that would have done any world class pizza franchise proud.
While those seem to be excesses under almost any set of circumstances we
can certainly understand the fact that the prince had multiple snooker tables
and his own professional film processing laboratory. These are critically important
possessions for someone attempting to prove that he is the greatest spender on
things that he will never use. And if anyone had the audacity to ask why, they
were skating on really thin ice, because of the fact that it is considered a criminal
offense in Brunei for anyone to disclose anything about the way the royal family
spends its money.
whatever reason, the country was in a constantly declared state of emergency
which had been in place for decades. Why this tiny kingdom needed to be on
the ready for over 20-years no one has been able to determine. However,
because of this fact, the king was able to meet out harsh treatment to those that
did not toe the line in his kingdom and talking about royal spending was included
in this bill of particulars reality to things that were just not talked about.
It is interesting that they played such hardball relative to how the fortune was
spent as Jefri often was known to say that he was not spending any more money
than anyone else would should they be at his station in life. However, Jefri could
never name anyone that was at his station. The auction brought a tad over $7 million
and many believe that it cost twice that amount to advertise, catalogue and bring
off. The end result was the Brunei allowed itself to be held to public ridicule.
In addition, the paltry sum that was received was estimated be less than 10% of
its original cost
and theft are things that sometimes occur at the worst of all times, this all
happened during a period that the oil market was about as low as it had been since
before the Ten Day War. The country was already called a "Shellfare State,"
after the Western oil company that was so important in bringing so much bacon
home to Brunei, Shell Oil Company. Maybe now the Sultan will sell the Plaza Hotel
in New York, the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles or better yet the Dorchester
in London, and use the money to bail out the country. However, at last report,
while tourism has laid an egg, oil prices have risen substantially and many of
these projects have been put on hold.
Sultan and his advisors are still trying to make sense out of investments such
as the Hotel Bel-Aire in Los Angeles, the New York Palace Hotel, the Dorchester
Hotel in London, Datastream, a telecommunications company and Asprey Plc, the
Jeweler to Britain's royal family. While Jefri's investments made have lacked
substantial logic, they certainly reeked of good taste. After all, what
is money for if not to be spent on items that please.