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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 16:12 GMT
Saudi princess guilty of jewellery theft
King Fahd Abdel Aziz
King Fahd's influence may help the princess
A court in Egypt has sentenced a Saudi Arabian princess, in her absence, to three years in prison with hard labour for failing to pay a jewellery bill of more than $1m.

Princess Hind
Wife of a brother of King Fahd
Has lived in Cairo for 10 years
Allegations of mistreating employees
Previously sentenced to one year in jail for stealing $2.3m
Princess Hind al-Fassi is married to Prince Turki ibn Abdel Aziz, brother of the Saudi Arabian ruler, King Fahd ibn Abdel Aziz.

BBC Cairo correspondent Heba Saleh reports that the excesses of the Saudi princess are well known in Cairo.

Her family and retinue have occupied two floors of a luxury hotel overlooking the Nile for 10 years. They are known for their lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle.

In the news

Our correspondent says the princess's retinue have been in the news repeatedly because of allegations about mistreatment of their domestic staff and the thuggish behaviour of their bodyguards.

Two years ago, Egyptian and Filipino employees filed complaints against the family for holding them against their will in a hotel.

The princess has repeatedly ignored court summonses to appear in connection with the theft of the jewellery.

Princess Hind is accused of sending her cook to the jewellers to fetch a range of jewellery pieces for her to inspect.

But she neither returned the jewels nor paid for them.

Last February, an Egyptian court sentenced Princess Hind in her absence to one year in jail for stealing $2.3m from one of her financial advisers, but police made no move to arrest her.

Influence

It is not clear if Princess Hind, who has been banned from leaving Egypt, will now be arrested and taken to prison.

As the sister-in-law of the Saudi king, our correspondent says, she belongs to one of the most influential families in the Middle East.

The Egyptian Government may also try to do all it can to avoid offending a close regional ally and big investor in the Egyptian economy.

Some Egyptian newspapers have been calling on the authorities to expel the princess, who now has 10 days to appeal against the verdict.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Getting a drink in Saudi Arabia
22 Jan 01 | Middle East
Britons interrogated in Saudi Arabia
02 Dec 00 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia's challenges
08 Dec 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Saudi Arabia's castle of sand
21 Dec 00 | Middle East
Timeline: Saudi Arabia
21 Sep 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Egypt
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