Former employees of ‘dwarf-tossing’ Saudi billionaire prince allege that he uses philanthropy to become richer
The Saudi prince who was last week awarded a Republic Day honour for his intention to carry out charity work in Malta is described as an “eccentric” man with ambitions to replace his ailing uncle who rules over the oil rich and repressive kingdom.
Although the majority of people who over the years have been awarded Republic Day medals fully deserve the honour, a number of recent choices have raised suspicion and given an impression that the awards have been turned into a commodity.
Last year, the best-selling author of Is-Sriep Regghu Saru Velenuzi Alev Vella Gera turned down a Republic Day honour, claiming that he couldn’t accept an award from a political class which “apart from some exception, has been causing so much damage to my country.”
He had also underlined what he termed as clear contradictions in awarding an honour to the Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko who supports Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay campaign while also honouring transsexual Joanne Cassar.
“I feel I’ve made the right choice not to involve myself in this farce, where someone who is given a national honour becomes a pawn in the insidiousness of the Maltese political game,” Vella Gera had said.
Moreover, in the past Malta honoured foreign dictators such as Korean leader Kim Il-Sung and Muammar Gaddafi. The Korean leader was given an honorary award in 1985, while Gaddafi was awarded honorary membership of the Xirka Gieħ ir-Reppublika in 1975 and became a member of the National Order of Merit in 2004.
This year it was the turn of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal who portrays himself as a global philanthropist and is considered to be the richest man in Saudi Arabia and one of the richest people in the world.
On Saturday he was made Honorary Companion of the National Order of Merit for charity work he is planning in Malta and his long-standing interest in Malta.
But in an article published by Business Insider in 2012, former employees alleged that the Prince’s charity work is more for appearance, and eventual profit, than for altruistic reasons.
“He’s a huge philanthropist, but it’s all for the press,” one of Alwaleed’s former employees said, adding “I was there over five years. I went to every African country. Cash was given out in millions of dollars. They would go for a meeting and we would give a bag man millions of dollars of cash. And then we’d return two or three years later and guess what, we’re going to build a hotel there. Anything [Alwaleed] does worldwide is for a reason.”
The report explained that in 2003 Alwaleed’s foundation donated some $ 1 million to Ghanaian charities including an early child development center, an education fund, a children’s preschool program, and a clinic to study AIDS, malaria, and malnutrition.
Three years later Ghana awarded Alwaleed a “Companion of the Order of the Volta” medal. Then, in 2011, Alwaleed opened a $120 million hotel in Accra, Ghana.
Charged with rape
The US-educated prince, worth around $30 million, has been embroiled in a number of scandals, including charges of raping a 20-year-old model in Spain.
In 2008, the prince was accused of drugging and raping a Spanish-German woman Soraya in Ibiza, Spain on board his luxury yacht Turama.
He denied the charge, saying he was not even in Spain at the time and refused to attend court or provide demanded DNA related evidence.
In 2012,the Spanish court dropped the case over “contradictions and vagueness” in evidence from the alleged victim.
In a separate case, the prince was sued by Daad Sharab, a Jordanian businesswoman who said she was not paid any commission for brokering the sale of a jet to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
In a humiliating legal defeat, Alwaleed was ordered by a British court to pay the $10-million commission and the Judge described his evidence as “confusing, unreliable, hopeless and pathetic.”
Moreover, last year the prince sued Forbes magazine for libel in a British court, alleging its valuation of his wealth at $20 billion was short of the mark by $9.6 billion.
Through his Kingdom Holding Company, Alwaleed owns large stakes in the vacillating Citigroup, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Twitter and Apple among other companies. He is also owner or part-owner of luxury hotels including the Plaza in New York, the Savoy in London and the George V in Paris.
Beyond his shrinking fortune, various reports in the foreign press say that Alwaleed has set his eyes on the Saudi throne currently occupied by his 90-year-old uncle King Abdullah.
But Alwaleed penchant for luxury has led him to have a personal throne on one of his private jets, a Beoing 747 on which the Prince flew in to Malta.
But his bizarreness doesn’t end there. Speaking to Business Insider, Alwaleed’s official spokesperson confirmed that like a medieval ruler, Alwaleed keeps in his entourage a group of dancing, laughing, joking dwarfs.
Reportedly, at one of the parties Alwaleed habitually holds in the desert, he tossed $100 bills into a fire, encouraging the dwarfs or “jesters”, to run into the bonfire and pull the money out.
The Business Insider also reported “one source, who left Alwaleed’s employ with a letter of recommendation from the Prince, says that at least once, Alwaleed set up a “midget-tossing” contest, promising money to whomever could throw the little people the farthest. There were pillows. “
Alwaleed denied the stories and his supporters claimed that dwarfs are outcasts in Saudi Arabia and the benevolent prince hires them to take them off the streets.
The prince also takes pride in the fact that nearly 65% of the staff at his palace and his investment company, Kingdom Holding, are women. The prince also hired a female pilot to fly his jets in a country were women aren’t allowed to drive cars.
However, he’s been accused of doing it for publicity and reportedly the prince told his aviation staff that female pilot Hanadi Zakariya Hindi would never fly his aircraft.