‘Allowed to escape’: Late Saudi king’s ‘secret wife’ to dish dirt on lavish royals

Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. © Helene C. Stikkel
A British film based on the story of Janan Harb, who says she was a “secret wife” of late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, promises an exclusive insight into the life of one of the most secretive royal families in the world.

The film, by British director Malcolm Walker and titled ‘The Weaknesses of King Fahd’, is still in production stages and no date has been set for its release. However, it will reportedly paint an unfavorable portrait of the life of Harb’s former husband – the king of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005.

The Middle East Eye reported the film contains images of the ruler gambling in a London casino, injecting drugs and forcing Harb to have three abortions.

Janan Harb, 68, a Palestinian-born British socialite, says she married the then-prince in a secret ceremony in a palace which Fahd had built for her in the city of Jeddah after a whirlwind romance.

 “I found a big Cadillac in front of my relatives’ villa. A black man in all white got out and asked, ‘Are you Janan Harb? The prince sent you this,’ and gave me a jewelry box. I opened it and there was a diamond necklace plus an envelope with $20,000,” Harb said in an interview with the Evening Standard.

However, the happiness was short-lived.

 “I wasn’t happy. I was locked in the palace and began to get bored,” she said. Besides that the current King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, her husband’s brother, allegedly wanted him to get rid of her.

 “I was banished in 1970. They thought I was a threat to him because they were preparing him to become a king. But I think Fahd made a deal to let me go.”

She described Fahd as a “gentleman” whom she has to thank because “he allowed me to escape Saudi rather than killing me.”

Harb claims Fahd vowed to support her financially till the end of her life. At the time her former spouse was seriously ill, and she struck a verbal deal with his son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd who allegedly agreed to pay her £12 million (US$17 million) and buy her two flats in London.

When he refused to stick to the agreement, she took a case to a British court, which led to a 12-year long court battle, and ended in Harb’s favor in November 2015, as the UK High Court found for the plaintiff.

The prince himself is known for his extravagant lifestyle traveling around the world accompanied by 100 henchmen and spending a staggering $6 million a week, Harb claims. He is also embroiled in a family feud with his cousin, Prince Sultan bin Turki, who filed a criminal complaint and accused him of organizing the prince’s kidnapping from Switzerland in 2003.

The verdict came in handy for Harb as she had become used to a lifestyle which was hard to maintain without a steady inflow of money from her late husband. The judge said she had used £3 million given to her to pay off debts, including an £85,000 gambling debt, and then gambled away or spent the balance of £1.9 million within two years of her "lavish lifestyle."

She declared herself bankrupt back in 2008 and was in an urgent need of money to support her two grown-up daughters and 91-year-old mother.

 “It’s a great relief because I was really struggling. I thank British justice. It has saved my life and daughters’ lives,” she told the Evening Standard.

Although Harb acknowledges that the royals may be less than pleased about the film, she is sure of her decision.

 “It has to come out. No one in the whole world knows exactly how they live inside their palaces. It is part of history.”

She is also planning to publish an autobiography by the end of the 2016, which will give readers a glimpse behind the curtains of her life among Saudi royals. 

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Saudi royal family is a no stranger to controversy. In 2010, Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud was sentenced to life over beating up his servant Bandar Abdulaziz to death in a luxurious London hotel. Earlier, in 2004 Prince Nayef bin Fawwaz Al Shalaan was indicted in the United States and France over his participation in drug dealing operations.

The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on harsh interpretation of Sharia law with strict punishments for drug-related offences, ban on alcohol and homosexual relations.