Khashoggi’s Fall

Lavish villas, perfumed houris, costume balls, fabulous deals with foreign powers and Oriental potentates—Adnan Khashoggi’s life was an eighties remake of The Thousand and One Nights. The rumors started during the Iran-contra scandal, and the Saudi arms dealer once touted as the richest man in the world had to resort to such inconvenient economies as selling his famous yacht to Donald Trump. Now, after three months in a Swiss jail, he’s been extradited to the U.S. on charges of mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

  1. Adnan Khashoggi was never the richest man in the world, ever, but he flaunted the myth that he was with such relentless perseverance and public-relations know-how that most of the world believed him. The power of great wealth is awesome. If you have enough money, you can bamboozle anyone. Even if you can create the illusion that you have enough money you can bamboozle anyone, as Adnan Khashoggi did over and over again. He understood high visibility better than the most shameless Hollywood press agent, and he made himself one of the most famous names of our time. Who doesn’t know about his yachts, his planes, his dozen houses, his wives, his hookers, his gifts, his parties, his friendships with movie stars and jet-set members, and his companionship with kings and world leaders? His dazzling existence outshone even that of his prime benefactors in the royal family of Saudi Arabia—a bedazzlement that led to their eventual disaffection for him.

    Now, reportedly broke, or broke by the standards of people with great wealth—his yacht gone, his planes gone, his dozen houses gone, or going, and his reputation in smithereens—he has recently spent three months pacing restlessly in a six-by-eight-foot prison cell in Bern, Switzerland, where the majority of his fellow prisoners were in on drug charges. True, he dined there on gourmet food from the Schweizerhof Hotel, but he also had to clean his own cell and toilet as a small army of international lawyers fought to prevent his extraditio...