A Saudi princess with a penchant for lavish hotel stays and extravagant shopping sprees has a history of dodging her bills. Vanity Fair followed Princess Maha bint Mohammed bin Ahmad al-Sudairi’s devious trail of nearly $30 million in evaded bills.
On May 31, 2012, for example, Princess Maha attempted to avoid paying a $7 million balance stemming from her five months-long stay at Paris’s five-star Shangri-La Hotel. She and her 60-person entourage had reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to sneak out at 3:30 a.m. but were stonewalled until several official calls were made, VF notes.
After a tense standoff that involved calls to high-ranking diplomats and officials, she was allowed to leave, whereupon she checked into the nearby Royal Monceau, owned by Qatar, a friendly neighbor of Saudi Arabia.
In 2009, Princess Maha embarked on an epic shopping spree in some of Paris’s most expensive boutiques amounting to $20 million, which she issued a “Payment to follow” document for. Part of those purchases were reportedly taken care of by the Saudi Embassy. They included $125,000 for her clothing binge at sports and leisurewear store Key Large.
Then, in 2013, VF reports that a French court seized two storage units containing mounds of Maha’s purchases from the year before. The units reportedly “included clothes, hats, handbags, jewelry, artworks, bathing suits, designer eyeglasses, cartons of cigarettes, gold-plated serving dishes, about a thousand pairs of women’s shoes, and some framed photographs of the princess posing in a tiara and a carnival mask.”
Part of the proceeds from the sale should have gone to paying an outstanding $400,000 bill from a “luxury-services company that had provided her with chauffeurs and cars—almost 30 of them every day, including two Rolls-Royce Phantoms.”
Princess Maha’s 2012 shopping spree excess reportedly placed her at odds with Saudi Arabia’s recently-deceased King Abdullah. VF reports that the $20 million bonanza had taken place around the same time she had divorced her late husband Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud; he was also her cousin. Nayef passed away several months later from diabetes. He was 78.
Saudi Arabia’s present King Salman reportedly paid off Maha’s debts in order to maintain good relations between his country and France, a hot destination for members of his kingdom who often do their shopping there.
Yet, a Middle Eastern source who is “acquainted” with the Princess — now in her 50s — suggested a cultural defect in her native nation as perhaps being responsible for Maha’s extreme behavior. In Saudi Arabia, women have very few rights. In fact, they are not even allowed to drive.
“There is a charm and a sweetness to her,” her acquaintance told VF.
But she’s a lost soul. She’s uneducated; you know, they want to marry these girls off as early as they can. Then they have nothing to do but shop. It makes for stupid women, and it’s a real problem for the country—it means men are making all the decisions.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz