The Most Powerful Man in the World: The Prince of Brunei
Posted January 06, 2019 06:13:20The first and only royal to hold the title of King of Bruneis, Prince Kaimah has been a long-standing target for international criticism over human rights abuses and his use of public funds to build luxury homes.
The crown prince’s first foreign visit came to a sudden end after an investigation by the UN and a UN committee, which accused him of failing to provide adequate funds for his family’s upkeep.
The report was released earlier this month and drew criticism from rights groups and politicians around the world.
“He is a billionaire who wants to use his royal wealth to enrich himself,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time, accusing the prince of using the money for personal gain and to finance a lavish lifestyle.
But in an interview with National Geographic magazine published Thursday, Prince of Borneo Kaimahs claims that his wealth has made him an even more influential figure in Brunei and beyond.
“It is a fact that he’s the one who has been able to change Brunei from a monarchy to a democracy, and that he has changed the political system in Bruneis country and changed it very quickly,” he told the magazine.
“It’s very difficult to understand why there is so much distrust.
I am the only one who can do that.”
The prince’s life has changed dramatically since he was appointed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in 2009, when he was the son of a wealthy business tycoon who built the country’s first high-rise apartment block.
He became Brunei’s longest-serving ruler, a title that would make him the countrys longest-reigning ruler if he is still alive.
In the years that followed, Kaimas wealth increased rapidly, with the prince owning an estimated 7,000 luxury homes in Bruneians capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and another 7,500 properties in the country s interior.
But the prince also appears to have been caught up in the royal family’s sprawling business empire, with a 2015 report by the United Nations’ Permanent Mission to Brunei accusing him of using his position as Brunei s heir apparent to enrich his own personal finances.
Prince Kaims wealth has prompted many international human rights groups to criticize him for his policies, including the arrest of prominent human rights activist Nimrata Jibani in February 2019 for allegedly spying for a foreign power.
Kaimah, who was born in Bruneian-administered Sari Kairat, has long been a thorn in the side of the Brunei government and has had numerous brushes with the law in recent years.
In May, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for failing to pay taxes on his assets.
But after being released from jail in September 2019, he took his first overseas visit in over two decades, attending the annual Bali International Film Festival.
The prince, who has a net worth of $20 billion, is now a billionaire with the largest real estate empire in the world and reportedly plans to spend millions of dollars in luxury homes for international guests.
His new luxury digs are set to cost at least $5 million per unit, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Khairah is currently scheduled to fly to New York City next week for the opening of a luxury condo development at his sprawling Belair estate in Manhattan.