Ahad, 9 Februari 2014

Sultan of Brunei's ex-wife admits reckless gambling sprees 'chasing the money'....

  • Mariam Aziz gives evidence in the trial of her bodyguard accused of theft
  • Fatimah Lim is said to have stolen two gems and a bracelet worth £12m
  • Ex-wife of the Sultan of Brunei told the court she sold jewellery worth £1m to pay off gambling debts but denied telling Lim to sell the gems
  • Court heard Ms Aziz blew £500,000 in one night gambling at various casinos
  • Lim denies theft, claiming Ms Aziz asked her to sell the jewellery to pay off debts after the casinos threatened to sue her employer

    The former wife of the Sultan of Brunei admitted selling items of jewellery to pay off £1million in gambling debts after indulging in sprees at a string of London casinos.

    Telling Isleworth Crown Court that the mentality of gambling was 'chasing the money, chasing the money', Mariam Aziz rejected claims she once blew £3m in a single spree.

    The court heard the 57-year-old lost £500,000 in one night, playing the tables at London's top venues.

    She was giving evidence at the trial of her bodyguard Fatimah Lim, accused of stealing diamonds worth £12m from her employer, replacing them with near-worthless replicas.

    Lim claims she sold the gems to pay off gambling debts accrued over a 20-month period when Ms Aziz visited casinos around the world with her huge entourage.

    The 35-year-old former international badminton player said she was driven to sell the jewellery after the casinos threatened to sue Ms Aziz.

    The former wife of the world's richest man would regularly visit venues in Singapore, Macau and London - including the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square where she had a £2.5m credit limit.

    Jurors were told that Ms Aziz persuaded her female Muslim bodyguards to gamble despite their faith and that she would each provide them with gambling chips worth £1,500 a time.

    The court heard Ms Aziz once blew £500,000 in one night gambling in London, but the Sultan’s ex-wife rejected claims that she once lost £3m in a single crazed spree.

    Lim claims that her former boss struggled to pay off her gambling debts and that she was told to sell her gems for the cash.

    But Ms Aziz insisted: ‘No I never asked anyone, especially Fatimah Lim, to sell the diamonds because I would do it myself.'

    The former air stewardess would visit two or three casinos in one night, including Les Ambassadeurs, Aspinalls, and Rendezvous, all near Park Lane.

    Rupert Pardoe, defending, suggested to Ms Aziz that she gambled at more than one casino a night because she repeatedly maxed out her credit limit.

    But Ms Aziz told jurors that she would move between different casinos depending on whether she felt lucky or not.

    ‘The mentality of gambling is chasing the money, chasing the money’, she said.

    ‘It would be the defendant’s suggestion. When the defendant said "you are not lucky here" we would go to another one’.

    Ms Aziz, who owns property in Leicestershire, Kensington, and Singapore, claims that she had ‘no problems’ with her gambling debts.

    But jurors heard that Ms Aziz transferred swathes of cash into Lim’s bank account in order to pay off her own casino owings.
    She also sold some of her jewellery in January 2009 for around £1m to pay off her debts, the court was told.
    ‘There were people in your wider circle not as enthusiastic about gambling as you - there was a perception that it was not in accordance with the activities of a Muslim’, Mr Pardoe said.

    ‘You have hatched a plot to blame Fatimah Lim for the theft of these rings and this diamond bracelet’.

    But Ms Aziz replied: ‘No never, she’s the one who’s stolen from me. I never asked her to sell the diamonds.'

    Lim was eventually confronted for the alleged thefts by Ms Aziz’s nephew Idris Ja’afar in Brunei where she was arrested in January 2010.

    She initially denied being in London in December 2009, but came clean when Miss Abdullah arrived at the meeting and asked 'if Ms Aziz might forgive her and pardin her.'
     Jurors heard that Lim sent Ms Aziz a letter dated January 28, 2010 in which she claimed that the casinos were intending to sue the Sultan’s ex-wife if her gambling debts were not paid off.

    Lim allegedly grabbed the jewellery from Mariam Aziz from her Kensington mansion in west London.

    The bodyguard, who won a silver medal in badminton at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is accused of taking a pear-shaped 12.71 blue diamond worth £7.6 million and a rectangular 27.1 carat yellow diamond worth £600,000.

    She is also accused of stealing a £3.3 million diamond bracelet.

    The Singaporean allegedly sold the gems and then replaced them with replicas made out of glass and mineral tanzanite.

    Lim had been hired by Ms Aziz to be her badminton coach before becoming her bodyguard.

    Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s richest men, and Ms Aziz, divorced in 2003 after 21 years of marriage and having four children together.

    Wearing a headscarf throughout her evidence, Ms Aziz, 59, told jurors at Isleworth Crown Court that she first met Lim through their shared love of badminton.

    Fatimah Lim claims Mariam Aziz asked her to sell jewellery worth £12m to pay off her gambling debts
    Mariam Aziz, the ex-wife of the Sultan of Brunei, arriving at court to give evidence in the trial of her bodyguard

    Mariam Aziz with her former husband, the Sultan of Brunei. Ms Aziz's bodyguard Lim is accused of stealing gems valued at £12m, replacing them with near-worthless replicas

    ‘I met her through playing badminton, we played as partners - I travel a lot and play badminton everywhere for my exercise.

    ‘Her role developed beyond badminton - I later appointed her as my bodyguard before my divorce because I had trust in her.

    ‘I have a few bodyguards - they travel with me, applied for visas, book travel tickets, they assisted me in many ways.

    ‘I treated most of my staff as family, we were all very close to each other - in the early years I had no reason to doubt the defendant’s trustworthiness.'


    ‘I would like to wish you a happy 55th birthday. All these years in Brunei I never missed celebrating your birthday with you - sadly this year is an exception’, Lim wrote.

    ‘I have been under a lot of pressure from casinos to repay casino owings, believe me.

    ‘The casinos say they want to sue you if the casino owings are not paid. I am under great pressure.

    ‘As a result things have turned for the worse so I turn to Idris to convey to you that I wish to make amends and return the money in your bank account as I always intended to.

    ‘Everyone in Brunei knows your compassion, your leniency. You are a lady with a big heart, who is always kind and sympathetic to all around you.

    ‘I beg to you to sympathise with my plight and help with the civil proceedings in Singapore and the criminal proceedings in London.

    ‘Please be merciful and kind to me as I am looking after my parents and I am the only breadwinner for them.'

    Ms Aziz told the court how her diamond bracelet, worth over £3m that she bought from a jeweller on Bond Street, went missing in May 2008.

    ‘It is valuable, a very valuable piece of jewellery’, she said.

    ‘I needed it resized - the bracelet was catching on my sleeve. I lost another bracelet this way so, on this occasion, I decided to take it off.

    ‘I needed help from my bodyguard and on this occasion, Fatimah was with me on duty so I gave it to her and she put it in her bag.

    ‘Two to three weeks later, I can’t remember the date, I decided to wear it but couldn’t find it.

    ‘I asked my maid to find the bracelet. I was racking my brains ‘what happened to my bracelet?’ then I remembered I gave it to Fatimah.

    ‘She said she knew nothing about my bracelet, I conducted a search but couldn’t find it.'

    Asked if she had told Lim to sell the bracelet, Ms Aziz replied: ‘Never. I never asked anyone to sell any of my jewellery.

    ‘If I wanted to sell any of my jewellery I’d sell it myself’.

    Three months after the bracelet went missing, Lim resigned for health reasons and claimed she had to return to her native Singapore for eye treatment, the court heard.

    Lim then returned to work Ms Aziz in January 2009 where she continued her close relationship with Ms Aziz’s adopted daughter, Afifa Abdullah.

    The court heard that Lim twice asked Miss Abdullah to borrow the blue and yellow diamonds as collateral on a property deal on the promise to return them in a short time.

    Ms Aziz said: ‘The blue diamond, a gift from His Majesty, is a rare piece of intense colour, flawless, and it’s a valuable piece of jewellery.

    ‘The yellow diamond was worth $900,000 to $1m, a gift from my ex-husband.

    ‘I didn’t want to sell either diamond - I intended it to go to my daughters’.
    Jurors heard that when Ms Aziz wanted to wear the blue diamond for New Year’s Eve 2009 she discovered that it was made of mineral tanzanite.

    ‘I needed it resized, so on December 30 I asked Afifa to take it to Mrs Mussai at the 
    Hilton Hotel in Park Lane.

    Ms Aziz made hundreds of visits to casinos across the world, in Singapore, Macau and London

    ‘I was on my way to the theatre in London, we were on the bus when Afifa called and said the ring isn’t a blue diamond but a tanzanite one.

    ‘I was horrified, shocked, puzzled. I had lost the bracelet and now the diamond - I had no idea what had happened.'

    The Sultan’s former wife told jurors that her daughter Afifa came to her hotel room on the same night to make a ‘confession’.

    ‘She came in and said she had lent the blue diamond and the yellow diamond to the defendant because she said she needed it for ‘business purposes.' Ms Aziz told the court.

    ‘She said she had financial difficulties and that her mother was not well and that she needed the diamonds as collateral.

    ‘Afifa said she had borrowed it on two occasions, first in July 2009 and in early December 2009.

    ‘She said that she trusted Fatimah and that she lent it because she was emotional and under pressure, that Fatimah was very frightened.

    ‘I was horrified, shocked, panicky. I just couldn’t believe what I heard.

    ‘I trusted these people and they betrayed me, doing things behind my back.'

    The court heard that an examination of the yellow diamond proved that it was also a replica, made of glass.

    Jurors heard after stealing the gems Lim took them to a jeweller in London’s famous Hatton Garden where she claimed they had been a gift from Ms Aziz to her mother - for 28 years of service as her PA.

    They were eventually sold to a buyer in Geneva for around £5m, the court was told.

    Lim was eventually confronted by Ms Aziz’s nephew Idris Ja’afar in Brunei for the alleged thefts where she was arrested.

    Lim, of no fixed address, denies three counts of theft.

    The trial continues.

    Tiada ulasan: