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Brunei Sultan wins case over ancient relic

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A group of investors in Sydney, Australia has failed in a bid to bring a dispute with the Sultan of Brunei before a Sydney court, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The New South Wales (NSW) Supreme Court last year permanently stayed the case, brought by Sydney company Garsec against Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah over a 400-year-old Islamic relic.

Garsec claimed that the Sultan had verbally agreed, through representatives, to buy a tiny gold-lined Quran, valued at up to A$10 million, for his third wife.

Garsec's directors bought the holy manuscript from a former KGB agent and claimed that the Sultan entered into an oral contract via promises from his private secretary and godson.

Justice Robert McDougall last year ruled that the contract was brokered in Brunei and therefore fell within that country's jurisdiction.

The judge said the Sultan -- whose own constitution proclaims he can "do no wrong in either his personal or any official capacity" -- was entitled to his sovereign legal protection and could not be brought before a NSW court.

Garsec in April took the case to the Court of Appeal for review.

Chief justice Jim Spigelman and Justices David Hodgson and Joseph Campbell dismissed the appeal, finding that a NSW court was a "clearly inappropriate forum".

"An Australian court would apply the law of Brunei with the consequence that the proceedings in Australia against the Sultan are futile," the Australian Associated Press quoted Spigelman as saying.

"Accordingly, the order Justice McDougall made was correct."

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