THE playboy brother of the Sultan of Brunei has attempted to block a New York jury from seeing life-sized statues he commissioned of himself having sex.
Lawyers for Prince Jefri Bolkiah told Judge Ira Gammerman in the Manhattan Supreme Court that photographs of the four statues – which resemble sex dolls – could be used by defence lawyers for husband-and-wife barristers Thomas Derbyshire and Faith Zaman to embarrass the royal, in the latest twist in the Prince’s longrunning action against two British barristers.
“The photographs are very erotic in nature,” Prince Jefri’s lawyers wrote to the court this week. Jurors could be offended and “express their anger as prejudice against Prince Jefri”, they argued.
Mark Cymrot, a lawyer for Ms Zaman, accepted that the photographs were explicit. “I’ll tell you what, they make me blush,” he said. Mr Cymrot argued however that the photographs of the statues – which were taken while the works were in the garage of the Prince’s 23-room Long Island estate – were key evidence in the case.
Prince Jefri first lodged the lawsuit against Mr Derbyshire and Ms Zaman in 2006, seeking damages of about $US7 million. He accused the barristers, who acted as his legal and strategic advisers between 2004 and 2006, of defrauding him while in his employment. The couple, he alleges, sold the Long Island property for $US11 million to a shell company that he believes they were connected to. He argues that the property was worth much more
The barristers argue, however, that Prince Jefri instructed them to create the company so that he could sell the property to himself without attracting the attentions of the Brunei authorities. At the time, the Prince was in a legal battle with his brother, the Sultan of Brunei, over the return of assets that the Sultan claimed had been bought by Prince Jefri with Brunei state funds.
The fact that the Prince left the statues in the garage of the Long Island estate was evidence that he had retained ownership of the property, the barristers said. The statues, which depict a well-endowed, muscular version of the mustachioed prince in a series of sexual acts with his fiancee, were commissioned by the Prince from well-known sculptor J.Seward Johnson, grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson, at a cost of about dollars $US800,000.
The sculptor is believed to have been unaware of the identity of his commissioner when he was asked to make a series of statues featuring positions from the Kama Sutra. Prince Jefri asked Mr Johnson to put a moustache on the male figures at a later date so that they better resembled the royal.
Mr Johnson is better known for his large outdoor statues, such as the 25-foot-tall Unconditional Surrender, which was loosely based on the famous photograph V-J Day in Times Square of a white-clad girl being kissed by a sailor as America celebrated victory over Japan in the Second World War.
Lawyers for Prince Jefri also asked Judge Gammerman to rule that information about his numerous wives – he has 17 children – and his longrunning feud with the Sultan be kept from the court. Prince Jefri, who once ran the Brunei Investment Agency and was famous for owning a 50-foot yacht called Tits, with tenders called Nipple1 and Nipple2, was sued in 1998 by the Sultan, who accused him of embezzling $US15 billion from the country.
Prince Jefri is now believed to live on an allowance of $US300,000 a month. Despite his relatively straightened circumstances, Judge Gammerman reportedly expressed surprised when told this week of the damages Prince Jefri was seeking from the British barristers. “Seven million?” the judge asked at the hearing this week. “That’s chump change.” A jury to hear the case is expected to be chosen on Monday.