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Feature Article
The Swiss Affair: The Strange Case of Prince Sultan bin Turki 2015-07-18
The reappearance of a decade-old scandal provides a rare glimpse into a bitter and acrimonious family feud, exposing a previously unknown rift at the highest levels of power.

by Senior Analyst Talal Kapoor

Prince Turki bin Abd al-Aziz is perhaps the template for royal family scandal. Once a popular figure tipped for future success, his fall from grace came swiftly after his marriage to Hind al-Fassi, his second wife. Hind was despised by the royals (and her family even more so), and Turki was forced to leave office and country. After two decades of high living and scandal from Miami to Paris with his beloved Hind, they finally settled in Cairo, where lurid stories of their goings-on never ceased to provide fodder for the tabloid press. Hind's unpaid bills and subsequent lawsuits were legendary, as were the tales of servant beatings, forcible confinement, and dramatic escapes. All of this took place while Turki apparently lay in a drug-induced stupor, rendered comatose by his wife, who wanted him out of the way, it was said, so that she could pursue her numerous affairs. Things took a more serious turn in 2010, however, when a letter, supposedly penned by Turki, was posted by opposition media. The letter called for the royal family to flee the country before their "heads rolled in the street", and though an immediate denial was made by Turki, significant damage had been done. Hind died suddenly in August 2010, but controversy pursued Turki even then. Hind's family accused him of killing her with a fatal morphine injection, and then forging her death certificate. There was indeed speculation at the time that the royal family had simply had enough of Hind's wayward ways, and the sudden dropping of all charges against Turki by Hind's brother following a brief visit to the Kingdom did little to dispel such notions.

Turki returned to the Kingdom in 2011, but controversy seems to hound his son Sultan in much the same way. An outspoken reformist, Sultan had made a name for himself calling for an end to corruption among princes and officials, before suddenly disappearing from view in 2003. Opposition sources had carried a story at that time claiming that he had been kidnapped in Europe and was being kept under house arrest, but nothing more was heard from him. Now Sultan has shocked with the news that he has taken legal action in Switzerland against his cousin Abd al-Aziz bin Fahd. The action stems from an alleged drugging and kidnapping which took place in 2003, and resulted in not only serious injury but also imprisonment until Sultan made his escape in 2011. Sultan says his health has made a "surprising" recovery, and now, safely based in Geneva, has had his lawyers initiate a criminal investigation into the affair.

Starting in 2002, Sultan began speaking out against corruption at the Defense and Interior Ministries, and in May 2003 he set up the Royal Saudi Political Organisation in Geneva. Its aim was to combat corruption among princes and high officials, but his outspoken views on democratic reform were by then causing him trouble. In June of that year, according to Sultan, he was lured into a meeting at King Fahd's palace near Collonge-Bellerive, where, after meeting privately with Abd al-Aziz, five masked men burst out from hiding and overcame him. Meanwhile, his Riyadh offices were raided, his employees interrogated and imprisoned, with some being deported and others being sworn to silence. At the same time, Sultan was whisked away back to Riyadh.

Sultan alleges that a Boeing 747 medical evacuation plane was sent from the Kingdom to assist with the process of sedating him, and that it had remained in a state of readiness for days at Geneva airport. This specially hired aircraft was part of the entourage of then Crown Prince Abdallah, who was on a visit during which Saudi planes had been granted special privileges. It was this aircraft, he says, that provided the cover for him to be flown out. There was also another aircraft on hand at Geneva airport, registered in Switzerland to Abd al-Aziz, who was there at the same time with his entourage, to collect his personal papers and documents.

an escape and a return
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