Published December 13, 2010
NEW YORK – Brunei's flamboyant Prince Jefri Bolkiah tried to play by his own "royal rules" in dealing with two British lawyers he has accused of stealing from him, one of their attorneys said Monday as a trial in the globe-trotting, multimillion-dollar dispute neared its end.
Lawyers for attorneys Faith Zaman Derbyshire and Thomas Derbyshire made closing arguments Monday in the five-week-long trial. The case has become a tabloid staple by opening a window on the prince's outlandish lifestyle — including some sexually explicit, life-sized, custom-made statues he once kept at an estate on New York's Long Island.
The prince's lawyers were due to give their summations Tuesday.
Jefri is the so-called "playboy prince" of one of the world's richest royal families. He's the youngest brother of the sultan of oil-rich Brunei.
Jefri says the Derbyshires, a husband-and-wife legal team, exploited their access to his business affairs to steal about $7 million from him. The prince's camp says they embezzled by doing everything from using his money to buy themselves a home in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to charging beauty treatments and other personal luxuries to his corporate credit cards.
The Derbyshires say he owes them $12 million or more in promised fees and authorized everything they did. They say the disputed transactions were made on Jefri's behalf, were his way of paying them or were reimbursements for money they'd advanced to his businesses — and they say they ultimately ended up millions of dollars short.
The prince's side is "throwing up smoke ... so that they can take the compensation duly owed to Mr. and Mrs. Derbyshire. Those are Jefri's rules," Faith Derbyshire's lawyer, Peder Garske, told jurors Monday.
They would, he said, "have to decide whether it's going to be Jefri's rules, royal rules or the rules that require you to tell the truth and comply with your agreements."
Jefri has long been notorious for his free-spending ways: He once owned more than 2,000 cars and 600 properties, according to a Delaware court ruling.
He's spent much of the past decade locked in court fights with his brother's government, which accused Jefri of embezzling nearly $16 billion from Brunei's state coffers while he was its finance minister, nearly bankrupting the tiny country on the island of Borneo.
Jefri denied any wrongdoing but agreed in 2000 to repay money to Brunei's investment arm. The dispute endured for years as the Brunei government pressed him to turn over promised assets, and he hired the Derbyshires in 2004.
"I was impressed" on meeting them, he testified last month.
After their business relationship soured, he fired them in 2006 and later sued them.
Word of the erotic statues emerged as the case headed for trial, but the judge has barred any mention of them to jurors.