At the end of a private road in one of the wealthiest gated communities in Los Angeles last month, a bleeding woman clambered up the wall of a compound inhabited by a young Saudi prince and screamed into the night for help. It would turn out to be among the least bizarre scenes of the evening.
By the time the police arrived at the $37 million estate, before dawn on a Wednesday, the prince, Majed Abdulaziz al-Saud, had become, according to court records, the central terrorizing figure in a human circus that included paid escorts; alcohol and cocaine; repeated threats by the prince to kill his female attendants if they stepped out of line; and a gay sex act that al-Saud, the grandson of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, demanded his employees and guests watch being performed on him.
Al-Saud so terrorized his three female attendants during his three-day L.A. party binge that at one point they had considered jumping from a second-floor balcony to escape, their lawyer Vadim Frish told Women in the World. Police arrested al-Saud, 28, at the property on September 23; he was later charged with attempting to force one of his other female employees to give him oral sex, a felony. That charge was later dropped because of what prosecutors described as a lack of evidence. What’s not clear is whether insufficient evidence existed or no one was brave enough to talk about it. Asked to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit, al-Saud’s criminal defense lawyer, Alan Jackson, said in an email, “I will not dignify these salacious allegations, which the District attorney found to be unsupported by evidence, with a response.”
There are about 7,000 princes in Saudi Arabia, a nation of 29 million people where adultery and homosexual acts are, under the country’s Sharia law, punishable by death. Most princes — from Saudi Arabia or anywhere else — don’t behave like megalomaniacal caricatures, of course. But a steady litany of episodes involving enormously wealthy men from Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Gulf states engaging in acts of murder, rape and debauchery in wealthy redoubts of the United States and Europe have served to reinforce the impression of Princes Gone Wild — giving rise to a perception in parts of L.A, and London and New York that the marauding princes believe themselves to be above the law.
For evidence, look no further than a few miles down the road from al-Saud’s Belair estate where, 10 days earlier, a $1.4 million Ferrari owned by Sheikh Khalid Hamad al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family, tore through a quiet residential area, blowing through a four-way stop sign as a $130,000 Porsche GT3 followed in high-speed pursuit. One of the drivers later allegedly threatened a bystander, Jacob Rogers, who had captured the illegal drag race on his phone. “The man said, ‘Fuck America,’ and he threw a cigarette at me,” Rogers told a Los Angeles TV news station. “That was before he indicated he could kill me and get away with it.”
When the police questioned him, al-Thani claimed to have diplomatic immunity. By the time the Beverly Hills P.D. figured out that he had no such immunity, al-Thani, the former owner of a drag-racing team, had fled the country, taking his pricey cars with him.
There have been numerous other episodes involving princes or members of their entourage, as well. In 2010, Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al-Saud was convicted of beating his manservant and alleged lover, Bandar Abdulaziz, to death in an expensive London hotel. A British court gave him a lengthy prison sentence, but al-Saud was sent home in 2013 in a deal with Saudi officials to exchange five British prisoners.
That ?same year in New York City, Mustapha Ouanes, a member of ?an entourage of attendants to prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, son of King Fahd, who died in 2005, raped a 26-year-old woman who had fallen asleep in his Plaza Hotel room after a night of barhopping. Ouanes, an Algerian Canadian, was convicted in 2012, after a trial in which his victim described him as demonstrating a sense of “entitlement” and a certitude that he would not be arrested.
Rounding out a particularly bad year for Saudi royals, WikiLeaks in December 2010 published incendiary cables sent by U.S. State Department officials in Jeddah that described a huge private Halloween party, thrown by a wealthy prince from the large Al-Thunayan family, that included prodigious amounts of liquor, prostitutes, cocaine and hashish.
In? ?2002, the Drug Enforcement Agency indicted Saudi prince Nayef bin Fawwaz Al Shalaan for scheming to? smuggle ?4,400 pounds ?of cocaine ?out of Colombia? ?on his private Boeing 727 and launder cash through a bank he owned in Switzerland. Saudi officials refused to extradite Al Shalaan, and a Saudi court acquitted him of any wrongdoing. He remains a fugitive from American justice.
????Recent cases of Saudis behaving badly in the U.S. include a 27-year-old who claimed close ties to the House of Saud arrested earlier this year for the alleged rape of a woman in his Utah apartment; a Saudi princess accused in 2013 of human trafficking; and a ring of some 30 Saudi students charged with forging grades at a Montana college in 2012.?
The diplomatic immunity claim some princes have used is interesting because, more often than not they have no right to invoke it (doing so falsely is itself a crime). According to the ??Los Ange?les? Times, ?diplomatic immunity applies only to diplomats ?actively representing their countries at ?American-based ?embassies or consulates?.??Though the State Department would prefer? ?avoiding legal squabbles with the highly placed?? sons? ?and daughters of the Middle East elite, ?status alone won’t keep ?a prince or sultan out of jail.
?The spate of recent events have ?caused consternation for residents in the Arab-friendly environs of Los Angeles. After ?the police investigations into al-Saud, the hard-partying young prince, and al-Thani, the drag-racing Qatari sheikh, residents of Beverly Hills are asking an important question, said former mayor Jimmy Delshad: “Who the hell do they think they are, coming here and behaving like that?”
F. Scott Fitzgerald offered an answer, in somewhat more cosmic terms, in his short story, The Rich Boy, published in 1926 — six years before Saudi Arabia became a kingdom. “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me…They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are.”
But if wealthy Arab oil princes are causing Beverly Hills grief, they are also heavily contributing to its bottom line, creating a symbiotic relationship that revolves around money. Lots and lots of money.
L.A. real estate brokers say spectacularly rich Arab visitors fly in directly from the Gulf — Emirates and Etihad airlines have direct flights to Los Angeles from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively, and Qatar Airways plans to begin service in January — and rent oceanfront homes for $100,000 a month or furnished penthouse condos for children attending USC or UCLA.
No other group of foreign visitors spends more on hotels in L.A. than those from the Middle East, Julie Wagner, chief executive of the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau, told the Los Angeles Times. The Peninsula Beverly Hills, like other top hotels, ??offer their wealthy guests prayer rugs, arrows pointing toward Mecca and pillowcases monogrammed in Arabic.
As for prince Majed Abdulaziz al-Saud, he is said to still be in Southern California and may be fortunate to not be resting his head on pillows with “Property of LA County Jail” stenciled on them. On October 22, three local women filed a civil lawsuit against the prince, claiming he had physically abused and threatened to kill them over the course of three drug- and alcohol-addled days leading up to his arrest.
The women’s lawsuit paints a sorry portrait of a troubled man who demanded six people around him at all times and constant service from his attendants.
The party began September 21, the lawsuit said, with the three women working for $25 an hour to attend to al-Saud’s every wish. Four female escorts worked the party on each of the first two nights, said Frish. “These girls had absolutely no idea what they were getting into with this guy,” Frish said of his clients, adding that they were each married with children, originally from Russia or Ukraine and now living in Los Angeles. “They were not escorts. They were not there to have sex with him or to pleasure him in any way,” Frish said. “They cleaned up his ashtray.”
The first night, the women allegedly witnessed al-Saud with a corona of cocaine on his nostrils, the lawsuit said. The second night, the prince repeatedly and violently grabbed one of the female employees and told her, “Tomorrow, I will have a party with you, and you will do everything I want. Otherwise I will kill you,” the suit alleged. When another of the women resisted the prince aggressively rubbing his body against hers, the suit said, he grew angry, yelling, “You’re nobody. I’m a prince and I’ll do what I want and nobody will do anything to me!”
At one point that day, al-Saud allegedly shouted, “I want to pee pee!” and attempted to remove his penis from his trousers and urinate in the living room before attendants, who included a Saudi butler, rushed to stop him, ?the three women claimed in the lawsuit?.
By that point, they had had enough, Frish said?, and tried to leave the property through the garage but found the door locked. ??Later, al-Saud allegedly told the third female attendant, “You’re going to go upstairs?,” the suit claims?. ?”?I’ll be up there in two minutes and you’ll do whatever I want. If not, then I’ll kill you.”
It was around this time that the women say they ?ran to a balcony and contemplated jumping to the pavement below to escape al-Saud’s rage. Then came the absurd low point of the three-day escapade, according to the lawsuit.
On September 23, the women ?said they saw al-Saud being masturbated by another man kneeling before him. “Al-Saud had his penis exposed and the unidentified man was stroking al-Saud’s penis,” the lawsuit said. “Al-Saud notice the plaintiffs attempting to leave the room and screamed, “You must watch this!”
When the police finally arrived at the door of al-Saud’s 22,000-square-foot estate, they were met by a retired female LAPD detective working for al-Saud as a security handler, Frish said. “That handler tried to persuade the officers to leave,” he said, saying she had things under control.
Led out of the house by the police, al-Saud, enraged and delirious from drugs and lack of sleep, the lawsuit said, screamed out, “No news!”
Paul von Zielbauer is a former reporter for The New York Times and CEO of Roadmonkey.