It's hard to get good help these days - especially if you keep killing them. A man claiming to be a member of the Saudi royal family has been arrested on suspicion of murder after one of his servants was found strangled at a palatial London luxury hotel, the London Daily Mail reports. Police were called to the five-star Landmark Hotel in Marylebone (above) after a maid found the body of a 32-year-old Saudi Arabian man in one of the poshest suites. The victim, believed to be part of the as-yet-unnamed royal's entourage, had been strangled and suffered severe head injuries in the attack. The 33-year-old prime suspect informed authorities that he is a prince of the Saudi royal family who had apparently been living the high life at the hotel for the past month. Rooms at the Landmark, built in 1899, cost up to £2,400 per night for the presidential suite. Rocker Liam Gallagher, Justin Timberlake and Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton are among its celebrity clientele. Michelle Obama also held a fundraising event for her husband there in 2007. Officials have said the prince does not have diplomatic immunity; the Saudi embassy has refused to comment.
Filed under: Wealth
Back in February we reported that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the sexy supermodel, singer and first lady of France, had sold her family's castle in Italy (above) to an Arab sheikh. Now the buyer, who has since been revealed as billionaire Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has relisted the historic castle with an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates with a reported asking price of about $28 million; he was said to have originally paid anywhere from $12 million - $25 million depending on sources. The 40-room, 21,000-sq.-ft. Castello di Castagneto Po, near Turin, has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt over the years but is believed to first date from the year 1019. Bruni's father, the billionaire industrialist Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, bought the historic estate in 1952 for about $1.5 million. It is surrounded by 175 acres replete with vegetable gardens, orchards, flowering terraces, ancient greenhouses, a caretaker's house and a farm building.
Gallery: Carla Bruni's Castle
Princess Maha al-Sudairi, the wife of Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister, is holed up in a Paris luxury hotel claiming diplomatic immunity after refusing to pay a $24 million tab she ran up at the city's ritziest boutiques. Al-Sudairi, whose husband Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz is a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family and is second-in-line to the throne, racked up the impressive debt on a year-long spree at the French capital's high-end clothing, jewelry and lingerie boutiques, the London Telegraph reports. In all some 30 businesses have been stiffed including Dior, jewelry shops Chaumet and Victoria Casal, lingerie emporium O Caprices De Lili, and the famed Hotel de Crillon.
The Princess is currently holed up in a $4,000-per-night suite at the ultra-luxe Four Seasons George V hotel (above), which is partly owned by her nephew, Prince Al Waleed bin Talal. After some of those owed money initiated legal proceedings, the plaintiffs' lawyer Jacky Benazerah obtained a court order for bailiffs to go to the George V and seize the Princess' belongings. However, the Princess has invoked diplomatic immunity and will likely refuse them entry, in which case the French interior ministry and senior police officials would have to be consulted to authorize a police escort, the BBC reports.
Jamila Boushaba, owner of Paris' O Caprices De Lili lingerie shop, located directly across from the George V, was left holding a $100,000 bill for lacy underthings. "She was a very good customer for eight years, but then simply stopped paying," Boushaba tells the Telegraph. "I made a delivery of lingerie to the George V, but payment never arrived. Every time we called, we were told the bill would be settled the next day. It never was. When we contacted the Saudi ambassador in Paris he said there was nothing he could do for us." An aide to the Saudi royal family was similarly unhelpful, sniffing, "I'm afraid we can't go around settling bills for the Princess's knickers."
Jacky Giami, proprietor of luxury clothing boutique Key Largo, said the Princess stripped his shelves of some $215,000 worth of casual wear. "We know the family well – they're in Paris a lot," Giami tells the Telegraph. "She's not the kind of customer where you ask for a deposit, or to ask to see a piece of identity." Every time the Princess and her entourage visited Giami's and others' shops a representative would offer staff an embossed card stating "Payment to Follow". And of course having all those exquisite clothes cleaned cost quite a bit as well; the Princess is also said to have run up a drycleaning bill of $50,000 - per week.
Filed under: Estates
A mansion in London's posh Belgrave Square has hit the market for £100 million, or about $150 million, tying it with Candy Spelling's The Manor in Beverly Hills for the title of the world's most expensive estate (in terms of current listings). The six-floor, 21,000-sq.-ft. white-stucco-fronted building has 12 bedrooms, 20-ft. ceilings, a basement swimming pool, gym, media room, and every imaginable luxury fitting. The property has been gutted and revamped by Lebanese developer Musa Salem, the London Times reports.
Across the Square another house has recently come on the market for £80 million, or about $120 million. The eight-bedroom, 20,000-sq.-ft. house is being sold by Saudi Arabia's Juffali family, following the death of its owner. Belgrave Square is also home to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, as well as several embassies. The Square was built for the 2nd Earl Grosvenor, later the 1st Marquess of Westminster, in the 1820s and is one of the grandest in London.
Filed under: Wealth
Osama bin Laden's siblings own a major construction concern, headed by his brother Sheikh Tarek bin Laden (right); due to the credit crunch, they've seen their net worth fall from $8.5 billion to $7.2 billion, according to a new list of the world's richest Arabs by Dubai-based Arabian Business magazine.
Sheikh Tarek's latest project involves plans to build the world's longest suspension bridge, linking Africa with Arabia across the Bab al-Mandib (Gate of Tears), the strait connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, at a cost of $200 billion; he plans to construct two new cities, one at each end, as well.
Elsewhere on the Arabian Rich List, which does not included royalty with the exception of those whose wealth has been achieved through business dealings rather than inheritance, Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is ranked in the top spot with a $17 billion fortune, despite having lost $4 billion in the past year as well.
Filed under: Yachts & Sailing
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's new $355 million, 555-ft. Eclipse, designed to be the world's biggest, will have a military-grade missile defense system to keep the oligarch safe. My colleague Deidre Woollard first reported on initial plans for the Eclipse back in January. Now further details are emerging about the megayacht (rendering above), which when completed next summer will be 25 ft. longer than Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's 530-ft. Platinum, currently ranked as the biggest yacht in the world. Secrecy surrounds the Eclipse, but sources tell the London Times that an antiballistic missile defense system is being installed by AST, a company with close ties to both the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, where the yacht is being built, and the German defense ministry.
The Eclipse is also being equipped with armor plating surrounding the bridge and Abramovich's master suite, as well as bullet-proof windows. There's also a submarine that can be launched underwater and dive to a depth of 160 ft. that doubles as an escape pod, as well as two helicopter pads. Civilian ships are not allowed to carry weapons and so have to limit themselves to defense systems, but Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz gets around this by having his 482-ft. yacht registered as a Royal Saudi Navy vessel, said to be equipped with French-made Exocet missiles. Pirate attacks on luxury craft are on the rise of late. Abramovich owns three other megayachts already: the 377 ft. Pelorus, the 282 ft. Ecstasea and the 160 ft. Sussurro.
Gallery: Abramovich's Megayachts
Filed under: Wealth
Now Elizabeth II is suffering the added indignity of languishing on the rich list, as her measly $650 million fortune puts her well behind the UAE's oil-rich rulers. In the No. 1 spot for the first time is King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, with a net worth of $35 billion, who apparently shot up the list as a result of admitting he was richer than previously thought.
At No. 2 is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi, with a net worth of $23 billion. No. 3 is King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, worth $21 billion. And Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, ruler of Dubai, clocks in at No. 5 with $18 billion. See the complete list here.