Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Saudi princess robbed of her 'pocket money'

A wave of crime in luxury hotels in Sardinia's Costa Smeralda has been taking place over recent days, in hotels of one particular hotel chain - insider skullduggery is suspected of having provided a professional gang with information to enable them to perpetrate their heists; a significant raid has also taken place in Portofino on Italy's north-west coast.

What drew my attention to this story was the headline about a Saudi princess having 11mio Euros stolen from her roomsafe; one presumes what we are actually describing here is a suite of rooms - I cannot imagine someone so wealthy having a mere room. What was she thinking? Holding such a large sum in her roomsafe seems to me to be most 'unwise', not to say completely mad. Possibly she was planning to buy a property, or more likely it was simply a reflection of habits in Saudi Arabia which favour holding cash rather than relying on banks - and in these parlous financial times such reticence is perhaps understandable, always provided that one ensures that the cash is securely held and a hotel roomsafe cannot by any stretch of the imagination be expected to foil a determined thief. The hotel's own main safe might be a better bet, I suppose, but even there I think you are taking a major risk. Ultimately one really needs to have one's own personal guard to guard the roomsafe or hotel safe when such sums are involved and the costs of doing so are likely to be trifling in comparison.

Early on in my banking career, whilst I was still in London as a management trainee, I often used to accompany a senior arab personal banking officer from our office, usually on Thursday or Friday afternoons, around various of the 'swankier' hotels in London to deliver to various clients of the bank their 'pocket money' for the weekend - this was in the 1970s and the sums were usually of the order of GBP10-30k (depending on which methods you use to evaluate current values, that might be equivalent to GBP40-120k to GBP100-300k in today's money) and usually we did two or three such deliveries during the afternoon, more during the summer when there were more visitors from the middle east in town. Normally we had to provide them with unused banknotes, not for any 'nefarious' purpose, but simply because of their desire not to have other people's fingerprints on their notes and in those days we had to get these notes specially from the Bank of England, with whom we had standing arrangements. Of course, those were still quite large sums of money, but most of it would have been 'blown' by their normal spending habits by the time the end of the following week came and they needed further injections of cash to keep the party going, but at least they didn't hoard massive amounts of cash in an unsecure roomsafe. Doh!


  1. Sorry, I always refer to a million as 'mio' - dealer talk (I was never a forex dealer, but did oversee quite a big one in one office for a while).


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