Who raped Soraya?
A court in the Balearics has summoned Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, to answer questions over the alleged rape of a Spanish woman during a party aboard a yacht in Ibiza in 2008
In May of this year, a court in Ibiza ordered the reopening of a sexual assault case against Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, based on an accusation that he raped a 20-year-old model on a luxury yacht moored in the Mediterranean holiday island in August 2008. Prince Alwaleed says he only learned of the accusation in September of this year.
The accuser, whose lawyer has identified her only by her middle name of Soraya, did not go public at the time of the alleged incident, and the original complaint was quietly closed in July 2010 by the judge overseeing the case due to lack of evidence. But on appeal, the Balearics provincial court, which has jurisdiction over Ibiza, ordered the judge to resume the investigation and summon the prince to appear.
The story dates back to August 9, when Soraya, a model of Spanish-German parentage who has appeared in Vogue and other magazines, was invited by a man of "Arab appearance, aged around 40, dark-skinned with curly hair, dark eyes, a three-day beard, wearing a baseball cap with initials on it," to join him aboard a yacht named Pegasus, moored in Ibiza's marina. She says he then invited her to join him in a Jacuzzi, and attempted to touch and kiss her. After managing to extricate herself, she left the yacht.
Two days later, on August 11, Soraya joined two Arab women she had made friends with a few days earlier aboard a motor launch that took them to the exclusive El Divino night club, where they then entered the VIP area. "I think they put something in my drink. After a couple of sips, I began to feel strange, very dizzy, as though I were in a dream," she subsequently stated to police. She says she told her friends that she wanted to leave, and the three went outside. She then got into a car and says she was taken to a large, luxurious yacht.
Soraya says the yacht was the Turama, a 43-cabin, 120-meter vessel registered in Malta and owned by Greek shipping magnate Spiros Latsis. The vessel had reportedly been hired, at a cost of ¤90,000 a day, by members of the Saudi royal family.
The Balearic archipelago is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Mediterranean and welcomes a flotilla of luxury yachts during the summer months.
"Once aboard the yacht, the girls told me I had to turn off my cellphone because we were in the presence of the Saudi royal family and it was forbidden to talk by phone. The yacht was called Turama. I remember that there were a lot of young women and young men, around 30 in total, like an orgy. Everybody was taking drugs. Later, the only thing that I remember is that it was like a dream, as though somebody was touching me, and they were on top of me, and kissing me, and at the same time I felt a sharp pain in my private parts. I was in a room with a small light. When I saw the young man on top of me, I got up. I ran to the door. I was very dizzy, and very distressed," says Soraya.
During the two hours she spent aboard the yacht, Soraya sent several text messages to the driver of the car in which she had traveled to the yacht, Benedicto, a chauffeur who worked for the Al-Sauds, and had introduced her into the family circle.
The first text message reads "I can barely stand, but I'm going to do it. I am only drunk and my God. Kiss." The next reads: "I have not had that much to drink, but I think they have put something in my drink." In the third she says: "Wait for me at the port. I am coming now. Please."
On August 14, at 1.40pm, Soraya went to the main police station in Ibiza to report that she had been drugged and sexually assaulted. She was examined by doctors who said there was no damage to her genitals, but found sperm in her vagina. Soraya says she handed over the clothing that she had been wearing the night of the alleged sexual assault, which she says has still not been examined.
The following day, the local police sent a report to an examining magistrate doubting the veracity of Soraya's claim, noting: "The gynecological examination found nothing abnormal, with no signs of violence anywhere on the body of the accuser."
The police investigation erroneously stated that the Turama was owned by the Saudi royal family. The report suggested "the possibility of requesting, through the appropriate diplomatic channels, a list of the men, along with photocopies of their passports, who were aboard the Turama on the night of August 12/13 with the aim of facilitating their identification by the accuser." But the police did not at any time go to the Turama. The report mentions talking to security personnel responsible for an unnamed "personality" staying on the yacht. They said they knew nothing of any incident on the night in question.
Believing the Turama to be owned by the Saudi royal family, Pablo Mendoza Cuevas, the first judge appointed to deal with the accusation, noted in his report that the case would be affected by the 1961 Vienna Convention that provides immunity to foreign dignitaries and diplomats from prosecution. This would mean involving the Spanish Foreign Ministry in any request for those aboard the yacht to identify themselves. The judge also called on Soraya "to ratify in her statement that she could definitely confirm that she was sexually assaulted and to specify whether she could identify the person responsible through a photograph."
For the next four months, Soraya and her mother searched the internet for any images or videos that included male members of the Saudi royal family. Finally, they came across a video on YouTube that included a clip from a US documentary about the Saudi royal family, and that included footage of Prince Alwaleed. On December 22 of 2008, they took the images to the court overseeing the case. "It was hard work, and we had to do it alone; without the help of the police and court, whose responsibility it should have been," says Soraya's mother.
In February of 2009, the judge made a formal request asking the Saudi authorities. He included four blurry images of Prince Alwaleed, but did not name him. The request noted that if the Saudi authorities were able to identify the prince, "to take his statement as an involved party." The Saudi authorities replied through diplomatic channels that it had not done anything "because it is impossible to identify the accused, and due to lack of evidence."
The Spanish police were not prepared to pursue the matter further, and there now seemed nothing to be done. On July 8, 2010, Judge Mendoza said the forensic and medical tests had shown no signs of physical violence that could confirm a rape. The judge also questioned whether the sleep-inducing chemical found in the model's body could have acted swiftly enough to induce a semiconscious state between the time she left the night club and reached the yacht.
Soraya's lawyers appealed against the closure of the investigation, and on May 24 of this year, the provincial court announced that the case be reopened and that Alwaleed be called to appear.
Son of a playboy senior prince, Talal ibn Abd al-Aziz, Prince Alwaleed enjoys a reputation as a religious man, and has long been outspoken about expanding opportunities for women in the kingdom. The women who work in his Saudi offices are not segregated, nor do they have to wear the enveloping black abayas - his royal stature keeps them out of reach of the religious police who enforce such measures.
The prince is a nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and one of the world's richest men - Forbes valued his fortune this year at $19.4 billion, making him the 26th richest man in the world and the single richest in the Arab world. He is the largest individual stakeholder in Citigroup and the second largest investor in News Corporation.
He publically pressured Rebekah Brooks to resign as CEO of News International during the recent phone hacking scandal, which dated back to her time as editor of Britain's News of the World newspaper.
The reopening of the rape accusation case comes at a time when Prince Alwaleed is putting together a deal to launch an Arab-language news television channel.
Heba Fatani, a spokeswoman for Prince Alwaleed's investment arm, the Kingdom Holding Company, called the accusations "completely and utterly false."
"The alleged encounter simply never happened," Fatani has said in a statement.
Ms. Fatani also said the prince was not in Ibiza in 2008 and provided pages of his calendar indicating that he spent time that summer in Paris; Cannes, France; and Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. He did not charter a yacht in Ibiza, nor did he take his own there, she said. Other people who spent time with the prince that summer can confirm his whereabouts, she said.
"While the Prince is a committed advocate for women and has empathy for any assault victims, he was simply not present," says the statement, adding: "As the records show, he was in France in multiple public places with many friends and business associates and was accompanied by French security officers who can all confirm his presence."
The documentation provides evidence that Alwaleed was not in Ibiza during 2008 and that his yacht, the Kingdom 5-KR was not in Spanish waters in 2008. Full and detailed travel itineraries with daily schedules and meetings listed show that Alwaleed was in France at the time of the alleged incident.
"He did not leave French territory between August 8 and August 14, says the head of the prince's security team, Joaquim Silva, in a written statement.
"Neither the prince nor his lawyers have ever been contacted by the court in Spain," said Fatani in September. "However, we have widely disseminated this documentation into the public record, and certainly expect that Spanish authorities now have full access to these materials."
Prince Alwaleed's wife, Princess Amira al-Taweel, has backed her husband publicly. "I was with my husband outside of Spain the day these allegations took place in Ibiza," Amira al-Taweel was quoted in September as saying by the prince's chief of staff, Kholoud al-Dussari.
"Quite simply we were not there. We were together in the French city of Cannes. I was with him all the time, and we were with at least 30 people," she said.
"Hundreds of witnesses can confirm that we were in Cannes, just as there is a lot of proof that we were not in Ibiza in 2008."
A summary of the Balearic provincial court's order to reopen the case cites that further medical tests conducted by departments of Spain's National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Science turned up traces of semen and a sleep-inducing chemical, nordazepam, in Soraya's urine.
Her lawyer, Javier Beloqui, said the tests supported her claim that her drink had been spiked and that she was sexually assaulted. He called on Prince Alwaleed to provide at least a DNA test in order to compare it with the traces of semen found. He adds: "Instead of documents, the prince should simply provide a DNA sample if he wants to close this matter," so that it could be compared with the semen samples.
In response, Prince Alwaleed's legal team said: "In accordance with Spanish law and in light of the abundant documentation that we have supplied, the principle of the Prince's innocence should be respected. It is not up to him to prove his innocence, but for the courts to prove his guilt. Quite simply, he has done nothing wrong."
Mr Beloqui welcomed the decision to reopen the case, accusing the police of not taking Soraya's rape accusation seriously. "Nobody was even questioned at the time," he said, "which is unbelievable when you consider the seriousness of the crime and the evidence that has been gathered."
So far, the Saudi authorities have refused to cooperate in establishing exactly who was aboard the Turama on the night that Soraya says she was sexually assaulted. Sources in Riyadh say that several senior members of the Saudi government were there. Although Alwaleed does not hold any political post, the matter has caused problems for the Saudi royal family, and some members have called for those who were in Ibiza to come forward and clear up the matter.
In the meantime, Soraya and her mother are to make an official complaint to the Spanish Ombudsman about what they consider the Spanish police's negligence in investigating the matter. "There are serious indications that there is much more to this matter than has so far come to light. A female acquaintance of my daughter wrote to us a few months after the event saying that they had tricked her into going aboard the yacht at the request of an unnamed man." The family has also filed a formal complaint to the Spanish embassy in Germany in relation to the Spanish state's handling of the matter.
The family says it will pursue the case in the German courts if necessary. Last week it presented a complaint to the police in the city of Augsburg. "The police have promised to pass on the complaint to the public prosecution service, which in turn will contact the Spanish authorities to establish what happened, and what can be done," says Soraya's mother.