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Lawyer: Brunei prince ‘betrayed’ by ex-lawyers

NEW YORK CITY — Brunei’s Prince Jefri Bolkiah was exploited by two thieving British attorneys who took advantage of his trust and vulnerability as he faced the legal “fight of his life,” one of his lawyers said Tuesday in summing up his side of a multimillion-dollar dispute.

The civil trial, an outgrowth of the flamboyant prince’s years of court clashes with his own homeland’s government, has played out for more than a month in a New York court.

Jurors are likely to start deliberating Wednesday in the case, which has provided a peek at the globe-trotting lifestyle of a member of one of the world’s wealthiest royal families.

Jefri says his ex-lawyers, husband-and-wife team Faith Zaman Derbyshire and Thomas Derbyshire, stole at least $7 million from him by abusing the expansive powers he gave them to handle his legal and business affairs. They say he authorized the transactions he says were thefts and still owes them about $12 million in fees.

Jefri is the youngest brother of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the supreme ruler of oil-rich Brunei. The prince is an extravagant figure, once keeping a stable of more than 600 properties and 2,000 cars, according to court documents.

Also among his possessions: A set of sexually explicit, life-sized, custom-made statues once kept at an estate on New York’s Long Island. The sculptures added a sensational twist to the case before a judge barred any mention of them during the trial.

Jefri has spent much of the past decade vying to hang onto various assets after being accused of embezzling nearly $16 billion from Brunei’s state coffers while serving as finance minister of the tiny country on the island of Borneo.