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MBS The tiny, tiny book worth a mere $10 million

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  • arnoarnooo
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/the-tiny-tiny-book-worth-a-mere-10-million/2006/07/22/1153166633731.html The tiny, tiny book worth a mere $10 million
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2008

      The tiny, tiny book worth a mere $10 million

      Alex Mitchell
      July 23, 2006

      THREE Australian investors have launched legal action against one of
      the world's richest men, the Sultan of Brunei, over his refusal to pay
      for a wedding present for his second bride, a 26-year-old Malaysian
      television host.

      The court action now involves the Australian Government, which is
      required to serve orders on the Sultan or his diplomatic
      representatives in Canberra. The Sultan is worth an estimated $A53

      The gift is a 400-year-old Islamic treasure — a handwritten Koran in a
      bejewelled box that can fit into the palm of a hand.

      Valued at more than $10 million, the antique is the property of Garsec
      Pty Ltd, a Sydney-registered company whose directors are David Rahme,
      Michael McGurk and Hugh Millikin.

      To make the story even more exotic, they purchased the holy book from
      a former KGB colonel, Inal Kochiev, who told the Sydney buyers that
      the Ottoman Empire relic had been in

      his family's possession for more than 100 years.

      Professor Ahmad Shboul, chairman of the department of Arabic and
      Islamic studies at Sydney University, has authenticated the
      exquisitely made piece, saying: "This is a rare copy of the Koran of
      exceptional characteristics."

      It was probably written in the 16th or 17th century, he said, and its
      tiny size probably meant it was kept "as a sacred object of blessing
      rather than a text to be read on a regular basis".

      Mr Rahme said a sale was brokered with representatives of the Sultan
      last year and arrangements were made for it to be handed over and the
      purchase price paid into a Citibank account in Singapore.

      The agreement to sell the religious antique for $10.6 million was
      completed in April 2005 with the Sultan's godson, Sunny Chai, after
      cloak-and-dagger meetings in palaces and luxury hotels in the oil-rich

      They were told the Sultan, a Sandhurst graduate who celebrated his
      60th birthday last weekend, intended presenting the Koran to his new
      wife, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, whom he married in Kuala Lumpur last August

      at a closely guarded private ceremony. She is a former presenter on
      Malaysia's TV3 channel.

      But the deal went bad at the 11th hour and since then the Sultan's
      courtiers have evaded contact and the service of letters and court

      Mr Rahme and his colleagues have made more than a dozen trips to
      Brunei in the past year attempting to finalise the deal. "Suddenly,
      without explanation, they placed themselves in breach of contract, and
      we had no choice but to seek legal redress," he said.

      Mr Rahme said the syndicate had spent more than $400,000 on overseas
      trips, accommodation and legal expenses and now wanted to "have our
      day in court".

      Under the proposed sale, the purchase price would be shared between
      Garsec directors and an Islamic charity for children in south-western

      "If we win our damages action against the Sultan we will either give
      the box to the Sultan or donate it to the Lakemba mosque," Mr Rahme said.

      "We are only interested in getting our money back plus our expenses.
      After that, we'd prefer to see it in a Sydney mosque where it can be


      Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei is one of the world's few remaining
      absolute monarchs. He has ruled the oil-rich state, on Borneo's west
      coast, for nearly four decades. The country's 374,000 people pay no
      taxes and have one of the highest standards of living in the world.
      Since 1962 the sultan has ruled by decree.

      Hassanal Bolkiah became sultan in October 1967 after his father, Sir
      Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin, abdicated. In 1991 he introduced a
      conservative ideology called Malay Muslim Monarchy, which presented
      the monarchy as the defender of the faith. He is 60 years old.
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