Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has scored a Privy Council ruling that could put an end to the most expensive family feud in history.
The magic circle firm won a ruling for client the Sultan of Brunei that his brother Prince Jefri Bolkiah has to hand over billions of pounds in assets.
The council ordered Prince Jefri to give the Sultan his London home St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park, the five-star New York Palace Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air, a Parisian property, a Singapore mansion, plus cash and diamonds.
The five-judge panel made the ruling so the prince would comply with an out-of-court settlement reached with his brother’s agency Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) in 2000. At that time he agreed to hand over £3bn. The agreement came after Prince Jefri was sued by the Brunei Government and BIA over allegations he embezzled £8bn during his 13-year tenure as the state’s finance minister.
Handing down his judgment, Lord Scott said some aspects of the defence’s argument were “simply ridiculous”.
He said: “The picture sought to be painted of Prince Jefri as a victim whose will was overridden by a dominant monarch seems to their Lordships to be obviously false.” The prince, however, will continue to fight the ruling in each country where his assets are scheduled to be sold.
A spokesman for Prince Jefri said: “As the Privy Council itself admitted, it is necessary to recall that it sits in London only. The focus will now shift to other jurisdictions, where very different legal systems apply.”
Dispute resolution partners Richard Chalk and Lindsay Marr from Freshfields led for the Sultan of Brunei and BIA, instructing Martin Pascoe QC and Stephen Atherton QC both of 3-4 South Square.
Prince Jefri was represented by Simmons & Simmons litigation partner David Sandy. His counsel was James Lewis QC of 3 Raymond Buildings.