Con Games: Prince Bandar Can't Go Home to Aspen Again

11/15/2010 01:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Michael Conniff Inventing the future of storytelling at The Isaacson School for New Media in Aspen

ASPEN, COLORADO -- Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, for 22 years the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to the United States and the uncrowned prince of our little ski town, is almost certain never to return to his $135 million Starwood spread here in Aspen.

How do we know? Neither the Bible nor the Koran told us so, but we do know a dozen or more workers at his heavenly Hala Ranch were given the heave-ho without explanation last week sans severance. Because Bandar's fortress of solitude was taken off the market in 2007, we also know it is likely to sit there on the site overlooking the mountains of Aspen like an ancient fossil from the age of fossil fuel.

What happened to our bonny Prince?

Of course, on the most basic level, 9/11 -- perpetrated by the Saudi Osama bin Laden and fourteen of his Saudi countrymen -- happened to Prince Bandar. His chummy relationship with the Bush family and the West would never be the same. Yes: he managed to liberate over 100 Saudis from the United States after the terrorist attacks, during a period when no planes were flying. And yes: President George W. Bush told "Bandar Bush" about the invasion of Iraq before Secretary of State Colin Powell got the word.

Even more to the point, consider the charges of kickbacks Bandar faces in the matter of Saudi arms sales. The Prince stands accused of siphoning off $100 million per year in a $2 billion contract between his country and BAE, based in the United Kingdom. But his country's billion-dollar efforts to export Wahabbism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia, produced lingering effects that would ultimately doom his charming act in most of the West, up to and including Aspen.

And then there's the particularly annoying evidence that one of his many wives aided the 9/11 terrorists. As I've written before:

The new information comes from The Commission: The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon, an investigative reporter for the New York Times. The revelation is contained in a portion of a House-Senate Joint Intelligence Committee report with 28 pages on Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center, struck the Pentagon, caused the crash of jet in a Pennsylvania field--and killed more than 3,000 people in the most deadly terrorist attack ever on United States soil.

The 28 pages on the Saudi connections never saw the light of day because the White House invoked executive privilege. President George W. Bush is so close to the Saudi royal family he is known by the nickname 'Bandar Bush.'

Bandar's connection to Aspen is wide and deep. He has given to charities and is generally considered a fine old chum around town. And he continues to wage his Western public relations campaign, including this tidbit from Tactical Report, a subscription-based intelligence service: "Secretary-General of the Saudi National Security Council (NSC) Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz is said to be cooperating now with his uncle 2nd Deputy PM and Interior Minister Prince Nayef on issues related to Al-Qaeda in Yemen and the Gulf region."

As you can see, Prince Bandar is not exactly our favorite son here in Aspen -- and in the United States -- and there's growing evidence he's never coming back this way again. Instead it would be best to think of him as the ultimate Aspen absentee landord: out of sight, and out of his mind.