Princess Maha al-Sudairi was caught trying to sneak out of a luxury Paris hotel in the dead of night – leaving her entourage of 60 people and an unpaid bill of US$7.4 million behind.
Police were called to the scene, and the Saudi Arabian embassy was also contacted in the incident. As the former wife of the man second in line to the throne, the cash-strapped princess – who has been occupying an entire hotel floor since Christmas – enjoys diplomatic immunity.
This means there is practically no way of forcing her to fork over the funds, and the five-star Shangri-La hotel is facing a battle royale. The director of the establishment has already tried to quash the rumors, saying there are no problems with any of the hotel clients and “no unpaid bills at the moment” – which is technically true, as the princess was prevented from skipping out on hers.
It is understandable why the hotel would do everything to protect their patrons, even the ones who appear to be a financially-challenged flight risk. But having this particular royal in your customer list seems to be as useful as having monopoly money, as it is not the first time she has suffered cash flow issues.
Just a few years ago, while staying at a different five-star hotel in Paris, al-Sudairi spent money like it was going out of style. She was accompanied by a representative of her entourage, who would present store managers with an official “payment to follow” document. Unfortunately, it never did.
The princess became a royal pain in the neck for international luxury brands like Dior and Chaumet, and exclusive Parisian boutiques like O Caprices De Lili, owing over US$15 million to 30 stores. But al-Sudairi’s diplomatic status meant there was nothing anyone could do. As a royal aide told reporters: "I'm afraid we can't go around settling bills for the Princess's knickers."
She certainly seems to have got them in a twist again this time. It is unclear whether the Shangri-La hotel chain will seek to pursue the matter in court, but judging by past experiences, it will simply join the company of the Hotel Crillion and the George V – both of which are still waiting for payment to follow.