Brian's Blogs

Shed a tear for the poor little rich girl…… not!

It must be tough being a Saudi royal. The news that Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, the ex-wife of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz – next in line to the throne after King Abdullah – had some “cash flow problems” and tried to do a moonlight flit after running up a bill of over $7 million while staying at the Shangri-La hotel in Paris will surely pull at the heart strings of any but the most cynical and unfeeling individuals for this poor woman.

This wretched creature was reduced to trying to creep out of the hotel at 3:30 in the morning with her entourage of 60 servants since she didn’t have a pocketful of the readies to settle her bill. As luck would have it, this beastly hotel, which had already started asking awkward questions about payment, spotted the dozens of bags that were being piled into a waiting fleet of limousines and nabbed her in the act, and immediately called the cops.

The princess arrived in Paris with her entourage on Dec 23 last year and booked out an entire 41-room floor of the Shangri-La. According to Le Parisien, she repeatedly dodged demands from the hotel to settle her bill, which was steadily increasing at a rate of around 20,000 euros per night.

Luckily for Maha, she is protected by diplomatic immunity, so the police were powerless to press charges. She's now staying as a guest in another luxury hotel, the Royal Monceau near the Champs-Elysées, owned by her friend the Emir of Qatar, while the little misunderstanding is cleared up.

In truth, this unfortunate woman has been in trouble over finances before. Three years ago she apparently overspent to the tune of 15 million euros on jewels, clothes and other hotel visits, including €70,000 on designer lingerie alone. But as one of the royal aides from the Saudi Embassy told reporters: "I'm afraid we can't go around settling bills for the Princess's knickers."

(I have to admit that I would be really hard pressed to know how it is possible to spend so much on lingerie. I recently splurged out on underwear to the tune of RMB200 at Beijing’s Yashow market for what will probably last me for at least the next 10 years. OK, so maybe Maha wears only silk knickers and wears a pair only once before throwing them away as she hates doing her laundry. And who doesn’t? Yes, that must be it. You see – there is always a simple explanation to most of life’s conundrums.)

Unfortunately for her, after her last big spending spree, King Abdullah was not amused by her massive debts and confined her to a palace in Saudi Arabia for two years, hoping she would learn a lesson. She didn’t.

On another shopping spree, she ordered €20,000 worth of glassware and silverware from a Paris store. It turns out that over the years, up to 30 of Paris’s most exclusive retailers have fallen foul of her bouncing credit notes, and are still awaiting payment.

But lest the unfeeling among you should think the princess is unique in this, maybe I should point out that the act of "doing a runner" is on the increase around the world. The New York Post reported that last year there was a 20 percent rise in people leaving a restaurant without paying, such as a couple who took a cigarette break outside L'Autre Pied in London and fled, leaving an unpaid bill of £572; while in Melbourne, four men entered the Vue du Monde restaurant on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower, ordered four cocktails, drank them, went to the balcony and jumped – drifting safely toward a getaway car thanks to the parachutes concealed under their suits.

Back to the Saudis, though; and seriously, I have to say that I’m surprised that anyone even thinks of giving them credit anymore. I mean, it’s not as if they haven’t had plenty of experience of bills being left unpaid – especially from our friend Maha Al-Sudairi. It is unclear whether the Shangri-La hotel chain will seek to pursue the matter in court, but having this particular royal in your customer list makes little sense given that it is not the first time she has suffered “cash flow issues”. She surely must have a reputation the length and breadth of the Champs-Elysées. Did the Shangri-La assume, I wonder, that the Saudi embassy would step in to stop there being a scene?

I’m afraid I simply cannot understand for the life of me why someone as loaded with cash as she must be should think it reasonable to cheat/swindle/steal – use whichever word you feel appropriate at this point – her way around the world when she probably has enough to buy the goods 10 times over.

Nor can I understand how the Saudis themselves couldn’t have seen a problem in the making when Ms Al-Sudairi decided to move in to the Shangri-La with 60 staff and stay there for nearly 6 months. I mean it’s not as if she doesn’t already have a pretty strong track record.

And how on earth can one woman justify having 60 of her own staff on call anyway? I mean, maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but I can’t even think of 60 jobs I would need done by 60 different individuals. And could a posh hotel like the Shangri-La not have managed to look after her in the way that she obviously thinks she deserves?

It will be interesting to see what happens to this wayward, stupid, spoiled, self-important, brat of a woman when she finally returns to Saudi Arabia. In the meantime, the future Saudi king will have been very publicly embarrassed by his ex-wife. I somehow think she will have a lot of explaining to do by the time she gets home. And knowing the Saudis, I’m sure it will be a very long time – if ever – before she is allowed out of the country to visit Paris once more.

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