MBS The tiny, tiny book worth a mere $10 million
The tiny, tiny book worth a mere $10 million
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
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
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
FOUR DECADES A RULER
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.