Lawyer, Wife Accused of Duping British Prince Out of $23 Million

One of Britain’s highest earning barristers and his wife have been accused of swindling millions of dollars from the Sultan of Brunei’s brother.

Thomas Derbyshire and Faith Zaman are said to have plundered Prince Jefri’s fortune to buy themselves two California beach homes, $30,000 worth of jewellery in a day, $33,000 of furniture and $2,800 of electronic appliances.

Derbyshire, aged in his 40s, is an expert specialising in the fields of fraud and money laundering.

Court documents, seen by The London Times, accuse the couple of utterly betraying the Prince’s confidence and trust in “wanton, reckless and outrageous ways”. The Prince’s total alleged losses come to $23 million. The pair are understood to be strenuously denying the claims.

According to the documents, Prince Jefri first met the couple in 2004. He was embroiled at the time in a long-running feud with the Sultan over $3 billion he was accused of embezzling. Prince Jefri has argued that he acquired assets with his brother’s authority.

The Prince agreed to their proposal that they serve as his legal advisers and gave them power of attorney. But then, he claims, they set about transferring his assets to financial entities linked to themselves.

His complaint, filed in New York, blames them for “numerous acts of theft and deception, self-dealing, embezzlement and fraud, all designed to benefit themselves and their family members, to the severe detriment of their clients and employers. The words ‘faithless servants’ do not do justice to the scope of their perfidy.”

They are “little more than confidence artists posing as English lawyers”.

The couple are accused of persuading the Prince to sell his 23-room mansion on the desirable North Shore of Long Island for $12 million, although its true value was $25 million. He believes the couple to have been behind the company buying the property, but says that they omitted to disclose this. Zaman, 30, is said to have directed Prince Jefri’s son, Prince Bahar, to execute a sale deed. No sales proceeds reached Jefri, he says.

Another time, receiving a $5 million cheque made out to a company owned by Prince Jefri, Zaman is said to have created a cloned firm with a similar name and paid the money to that. The couple allegedly used the money to buy two properties worth a total of $7.1 million at Manhattan Beach, California.

Zaman was appointed managing director of the Prince’s 55-storey Palace Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. She hosted the opening of Gilt, its restaurant.

At first, the document claims, she occupied a hotel apartment but is said to have told staff that she did not like it and moved into the $10,000-a-night triplex suite complete with private lift and roof garden. Her mother and brother had long free stays, it is claimed.

She allegedly hired her brother, Arzi Zamarni, to be “operations manager”, a position with no defined duties but an exorbitant salary. For the first ten months of this year, she is said to have misappropriated $750,000 using a corporate credit card. Derbyshire allegedly charged $280,000 to his card and Zamarni $95,000 to his.

When the Palace Hotel decided to install plasma televisions, Zaman allegedly insisted that they were bought through a London company. An order for 1,150 TVs and equipment costing $4.1 million was placed. Delivery charges added $230,000. The Prince says no TVs arrived and that the company’s address is a mail box.

Zaman was fired around November 7. Two days later, at 4am, she returned to the hotel and allegedly purloined two boxes believed to contain the Prince’s private documents.

He is seeking damages and the rescinding of certain transactions. Other individuals and corporations are also being sued, but the suit describes the couple as “principal architects of the fraud”. Derbyshire declined to comment.

Big spenders?

Allegedly charged to corporate credit cards:

Faith Zaman: Beauty treatments; cosmetics; vitamin pills; cinema trips; clothes at adidas, Jockey, Vans, French Connection, Polo, Armani, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabanna, Hugo Boss and, DKNY, Harley Davidson, Timberland and Footlocker; jewellery; DIY materials; furniture; 30th birthday.

Thomas Derbyshire: cosmetics; tattoos; clothes from Reebok, Jockey, Saks, Faconnable, Levi’s, North Face, Dino Baldini, Hot Leathers; jewellery; electronics; sunglasses; charitable donations; motorcycle accessories; house renovations.