Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 13:26 UK

Arrest warrant for Brunei prince

Prince Jefri Bolkiah (file picture)
Prince Jefri denies any wrongdoing

A warrant for the arrest of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, brother of the Sultan of Brunei, has been issued by a British judge on Wednesday.

Prince Jefri, 53, failed to turn up at the High Court in London.

He is involved in a long-running feud with his brother over billions of pounds that went missing during his time as Brunei's finance minister.

He was due in court over allegations he violated a court order to hand over 3bn ($5.9bn) to the Brunei government.

His lawyer told the judge the prince had declined to attend the scheduled five-day hearing and was thought to be in France or Monaco.

The judge, ruling the prince was in contempt of court for failing to attend the hearing, issued an arrest warrant valid for any country in the European Union.

"If he is arrested, it will take an advocate of great skill to persuade me that he should have bail," Judge Peter Smith said.

London resident

The case relates to claims that Prince Jefri, nicknamed the Playboy Prince, squandered billions of pounds of state money to fund his lavish lifestyle.

But Prince Jefri denies any wrongdoing, saying he has already complied with a 2000 court order to hand over the missing billions after reaching an out-of-court settlement with his brother.

However, the Brunei Investment Agency says he has not handed over cash and assets as requested.

The prince lives mainly in London after leaving Brunei a few years ago.

Last year, his brother celebrated 40 years on the throne of the tiny oil-rich state.

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