Archive for December 9th, 2007

Hey big spender: the £3m spree that landed a Saudi prince in a London court

December 9, 2007

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 Saudi ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz. Photograph: Martin Argles

David Leigh and Rob Evans
Friday November 16, 2007
The Guardian

It is a remarkable shopping list by any standards. And it has landed the Saudi ambassador to Britain with a possible £3m debt, and the embarrassment of having allegations about the ostentatious spending habits of the royal family laid bare. Bills he is claimed to have run up on an array of luxury amusements include two top-of-the-range Chevrolet 4x4s, a thermal night vision kit for his Hummer H2, dozens of designer watches and jewels, a selection of handguns and two Arab karaoke machines. One takeaway meal came to almost $800 (£391). And then there is the $2,500 item on a trip to a hotel in Casablanca that reads: “Girls: party night 5”.

These, and scores of others, are detailed in documents filed to the high court in a claim against the ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, a nephew of King Abdullah. Last month, he was ordered to pay more than £3m to his family’s former private secretary, Walid El Hage, a Briton of Lebanese extraction and a former director of an Arab bookshop in the UK, who spent many years as confidante to the ambassador and his father. He claims he spent the money on their behalf.

The 54-year-old ambassador ignored the court proceedings, and had judgment awarded against him by default. But he now says he is hoping for an “amicable settlement”. A meeting with the El Hage camp has been arranged for next week and the prince says he is seeking to have the court judgment set aside.

El Hage’s lawyer, Ian Bloom, says his client, who is abroad, declines to comment. But those close to him say he believes the ambassador’s diplomatic immunity is uncertain, because the alleged debts were incurred before he took office.

In a normal case, a debtor’s property could be seized. But under the Vienna convention, other diplomats and their London families currently get away with activities from shoplifting to refusing to pay the congestion charge.

According to the documents filed by El Hage, he picked up bills as the prince went on trips to Rome, Vienna, Casablanca and Paris in 2004 and 2005, immediately before his posting to London.

As well as conventional, if large, bills for hotels, cars and security guards, the lists include charges for a variety of the world’s most sophisticated brand-name items.

There is a list of 43 luxury watches allegedly bought in just 18 months at a total cost of at least £350,000. They included a Patek Philippe for £23,000 and two Jaeger Le Coultres for £17,500 and £16,700.

In January 2004, it is alleged, the prince left Riyadh for a European trip. He bought cutlery from specialist Paris shops Curty & Fils and Laguiole for €22, 990 (£16,439).

His family also allegedly invested in the must-have female fashion item – a crocodile Birkin bag listed at €18,770. Outfits from the couturiers Lanvin allegedly cost a further €150,000.

A Beretta pistol (€6,761) also figures on the list, along with a Cartier watch (€27,000) and antique guns, shotgun, and swords (€66,000).

Back in Saudi, it is claimed the prince spent £1,200 on three ivory tusks with amber and turquoise, and a red and gold crystal set for £9,000. A fleet of Yamaha Grizzly, and Big Bear quad bikes set him back £13,000.

But this was a small sum compared with the $183,000 which went on purchase and freight charges from the US for five highly sophisticated Raytheon thermal night vision cameras, to be fitted on his H2 Humvee US-army derivative vehicle. A large US pick-up, a Chevrolet Avalanche, is listed as “full options $39,250”.

A specialist off-road rally car, the Wildcat African Raid, built by a UK firm in Derbyshire, on a Land-Rover chassis is listed as £94,000.

In March, the prince went on a further trip to Austria and on to Casablanca. There was an alleged visit to the famous Swarovski shop on Vienna’s Kartnerstrasse of which it is said “almost any self-respecting Viennese lady has a Swarovski necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings”. The total bill was said to be $25,000.

In Morocco, items read: “hotel extra suite expenses, rooms for girls etc $1,465 … girls party night 5 $2,500… Moroccan sweets arrangement to take away $250 … HRH cash in hand $20,000”.

One striking purchase listed is an “ST Dupont lighter limited edition” for $1,769, which carries a mother-of-pearl and platinum rendering of the design of the Taj Mahal.

Back in Jeddah, the prince is said to have bought many Persian rugs, more vehicles and watches and gifts of amber. As well as some low-calorie sweets, he also allegedly splashed out on the import of a suite of exotic pets, (with cages) including parrots, mynah birds and a Dr No-style white Persian chinchilla cat.

A large selection of guns also figure on the alleged invoices These include two Czech CZ75D and CZ97B pistols, a French Famas assault rifle and a Micro-Uzi machine gun of Israeli origin. The Austrian Glock 18C “special tactical weapon” is described in one advertisement as “particularly popular with VIP security personnel. Nothing stops an assassination attempt faster than a hail of 9mm bullets”.

According to the court claims, the ambassador’s luggage of choice is Delsey and Zero Halliburton aluminium suitcases, whilst in cigars, his preferences run to the latest offering from Cuba – the Cohiba Siglo VI “Canonazo” brand. His alternative choice is alleged to be the Lusitanias Double Corona, described as “a truly great cigar” with “cedar wood, leather and cinnamon”.

The PR grandee Lord Bell last night issued a statement on the ambassador’s behalf. It said that El Hage had worked for the prince’s father for 27 years until he suffered a stroke in 2002. “The nature of the relationship subsequently changed.” Lawyers in Saudi Arabia were handling the claim, and had asked for receipts “in order to consider the expenses claimed and as appropriate to seek to reach an amicable settlement”.


Court documents: the alleged debts in full (pdf)

More court documents (pdf)

 

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A kosher hotel takes root in Marrakech

December 9, 2007

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                                the ogre city

By Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

When Moroccan-born Israeli chef Mordechai Perez decided to visit Marrakech to search for his roots, he had no idea that he would also be making a career move. In short order, he would find himself the chief chef of Marrakech’s first-ever kosher hotel and restaurant, slated to open its doors this month.

“After my mother died, I left Israel,” relates the 44-year-old Perez. “A month ago, I came to Marrakech searching for my roots. I came and I stumbled onto this kosher hotel project.” “When I got the job as head chef, I decided to stay.”

He came to Marrakech, in part, to learn about his father’s legacy. “My father was the head of a village 75 km from here. He would come here every day because he was dedicated to the promulgation of Marrakech Jewish life.” Seated in the place his late father used to pray 60 years ago, Perez shares stories of the Jews who inhabited the Mellah in the beginning of the twentieth century. He is especially moved to be serving the same community which his father, Yaacov, served as rabbi.

To the casual observer, the quarter where the hotel is situated reflects the Muslim character of Morocco, its narrow alleys flooded with children playing and elders fasting for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. But on closer inspection, the true nature of the Mellah, the Jewish quarter – in essence, the Moroccan version of the ghettos of European cities – becomes clear. Many of the homes are still decorated with mezuzot and a wealth of other sacred Jewish symbols. “The sign of a Jewish home,” Perez sighs with nostalgia, referring to a mezuzah in a Muslim-owned house.

Today, Marrakech is home to 300 Jews out of the 2,000 in the whole of Morocco. Marrakech’s Mellah, once a vibrant shelter to those expelled from Spain after 1492, recalls an era in which both Jew and Muslim were involved in the salt and spice commerce, and both lived and prayed within the medina’s thick paprika-red walls.

A veteran of hotel kitchens in Israel and in Belgium, Perez will be responsible for implementing all of the kashrut dietary regulations in the new facility. “I am one of the only ones in Marrakech trained to ‘kosherize’ and be a proper shomer (Kashrut Supervisor),” he says.

Jews in Marrakech

For co-owner Prosper Kadoch, 43, the new hotel and restaurant, located 15 minutes from the Mellah, is about creating a place for the Moroccan Jewish community, as well as “providing a home in Marrakech for Jews worldwide.” In recent years, adds co-owner Simon Acoca, 45, “Marrakech has undergone an incredible transition, and it is definitely a tourist hot-spot. We are just trying to open the market for Jews as well.”

In one of the most important cities in Africa, there is without doubt a need for real kosher cuisine, Kadoch says. Mindful of observant guests, the hotel and restaurant are to maintain strict standards of kashrut. The hotel will also have an in-house synagogue, and will anticipate the needs of those keeping Shabbat. The hotel and restaurant will be run in such a way that “the one who can observe the most can observe the least,” says Kadoch.

Although their primary target is Jewish community, the hotel will be open to visitors of all kinds. “What is important is that they understand that they will be complying with a kosher environment,” Acoca says. In addition, the hotel is to organize sightseeing tours to historic Jewish landmarks and areas in Marrakech. The owners aim to “contribute to a Jewish experience in the middle of Marrakech while still indulging in everything the Maghreb has to offer.”

The question of terror

For some potential visitors to Morocco, the specter of terrorism has been a factor in delaying a trip. Limor Azulay, 36, of Jerusalem, concedes that what has held her back from touring Morocco is fear. “My mother is Moroccan, and although I?ve always been interested, I’ve always been too afraid to go.” The fear has been underscored by multiple suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003, whose targets included a Jewish-owned restaurant, and by the Moroccans involved in the Madrid train bombings the next year.

Mindful of the damage to tourism, the government has since made security – and a sense of safety for tourists – a high priority. “When it comes to tourism, there is a certain air of tranquility to be found in Morocco, and no one is willing to sacrifice that,” Acoca says. Perez agrees. “Word on the street is that there are little spurts of terrorism, but we know that the king takes care of them silently,” he says.”I have only been here for a month, I go outside of the mellah and everyone tells me “shalom, shalom” Perez says. “I speak back to them in my mother tongue, Moroccan Arabic, and they know that I am a Moroccan Jew. I know that there is nothing to be worried about.”

Naqniq, R. I. P.

December 9, 2007

xymphora published these bad news…good news…..bad news because a human being was prevented from expressing himself/herself freely…..bad news because we all know why this blog was suspended and who was behind this evil act….next time don’t bring the old same story about democracy and Human Rights  and human lefts……..this blog was not suspended in iran, saudi arabia or zambia……

Naqniq, R. I. P.

Naqniq has been suspended by WordPress for the mysterious “violation of our Terms of Service”.  Since all it did was accumulate material from other sources, almost entirely ‘mainstream’, and allow the cumulative effect of the facts to damn Zionism and its apologists, the only conceivable problem, besides some inflammatory titles, is that it was becoming too successful in its mission.  It would be nice if some WordPress bloggers decided to ‘suspend’ WordPress for this egregious breach of the basic ethos of the internet. 

naqniq, you have all our support,sympathy and respect ( though we disagree about some of the contents of your blog

3,5 tons of hashish seized in Morocco

December 9, 2007

get_img.jpgOne person suspected of smuggling drugs was killed, and 3,5 tons of hashish were seized by the Moroccan army fleet near Al-Hoseima in the north-eastern part of the country, it was officially announced.

The suspect, whose identity was not revealed, was killed in a boat in which he transported 120 packages of hashish, the royal fleet reported.

This is the largest shipment of hashish confiscated in Morocco since 24 July this year.

Leonardo Dicaprio honoured with Golden Star Award in Morocco

December 9, 2007

image21.jpgActor Leonardo DiCaprio received an honorary award from director Martin Scorsese at the opening of the seventh Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco.

At the award ceremony Martin lavished praise on the actor as he presented him with a Golden Star Award on Dec 7.He complimented the ‘Titanic’ star for “always working till he breaks through the psychological depth of the character he has to play.”“I never fail to be amazed by his clear and complete commitment to his work,” Contactmusic quoted Scorsese, as saying.DiCaprio, who has worked with Scorsese in Gangs of New York, Aviator and The Departed, returned the compliment by calling the director, “a legend”.

The two are set to reunite next year (08) for their fourth movie together, ‘Shutter Island.’

The festival, which honored Scorsese himself in 2005, runs until 15 December (07)