Monday 26 February 2018

Runaway princess has assets seized over €5.7m hotel bill

Ian Sparks

A SAUDI princess who fled a Paris hotel in the middle of the night owing a €5.7m hotel bill is to have her assets seized in France, a judge has ruled.

Maha Al-Sudairi was caught ordering her entourage of 60 to load scores of suitcases into a fleet of limousines outside the Shangri-La hotel at 3.30am in June last year.

She had racked up the vast bill after checking into the hotel six months previously, taking over an entire 41-room floor.

But when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia refused to pay for her stay, she attempted the early morning flight, claiming diplomatic immunity and moving to the nearby Royal Monceau Hotel which is owned by the Emir of Qatar, a "family friend".

She left France a month later and has not returned.

Lawyers for the Shangri-La won a legal bid at a court in Nanterre, west of Paris, to have her assets in France seized.

She is known to have bought three units in central Paris, where she is believed to have stored goods from her shopping trips around the French capital – said to include expensive leather goods, artworks, jewellery, and clothing worth over €11m.

A spokesman for the Shangri-La said the hotel was pleased at the judge's ruling, but did not expect the bill to be settled soon.

"As far as the process of getting paid goes, it's likely to take a long time," he said. "Her belongings will need to be valued and then sold at auction, and even then we may need to take international legal action against the princess before we see any cash."

Princess Al-Sudairi's lavish foreign trips have proved too much even for King Abdullah, who confined her to a palace in the oil-rich state in 2009 after she left a trail of unpaid bills across Europe.

But the ex-wife of Nayef ben Abdel Aziz, the former Saudi Crown Prince, who died weeks after the Paris incident, escaped and headed for France.

Police

Princess Maha has a history of frustrating foreign police forces. In 2009, she claimed diplomatic immunity, again in Paris, after running up unpaid shopping bills of more than €17m.

The following year, she needed to be bailed out again by her family after she ordered €20,600 worth of glassware and silverware from a Paris store.

Her fabulously wealthy credentials meant her IOU notes handed to shopkeepers reading "payment to follow" were usually accepted.

Over the past years, up to 30 of Paris's most exclusive luxury goods retailers have fallen foul of her credit notes, according to French newspapers.

In 1995, Princess Maha was accused of assaulting a servant in Orange County, Florida, whom she suspected of stealing $200,000 (€152,000) from her.

No charges were filed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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