Prince Jefri Bolkiah is the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, and he is believed to have blown $14.8 billion on a series of follies including grotesque mansions; enormous collections of sportscars; haremsful of exotic prostitutes kept on standby at home and abroad; fleets of jets; musesumsworth of gaudy gems; private football tutelage from NFL greats for his pampered son; private concerts by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston (the former in a purpose-built, single-use stadium); and more (and more).
Vanity Fair had Mark Seal cover a New York court battle between Jefri and two of his advisors, whom he alleged bilked him out of a paltry few millions. As Seal explains, the case had wider significance: it was key to a narrative that the prince and the sultan have created about the prince's wastefulness, blaming it on sharp foreigners who bilked him out of his money.
The story goes into eye-glazingly weird lists of the prince's excesses. Reading it, I found myself tuning out, losing the ability to focus on the lists of spectacular waste, only to be brought back to reality by an extravagance so over-the-top that it shocked me out of my stupor. It's a kind of pornography of capitalism, a Southeast Asian version of the Beverly Hillbillies, a proof that oil fortunes demand no thought, no innovation, no sense of shared national destiny: just a hole the ground, surrounded by guns, enriching an elite of oafs and wastrels.
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