Activists protest Brunei's possible NY hotel purchase

AFP
A US gay rights group protests a possible purchase of New York's iconic Plaza Hotel by the sultan of Brunei, set to implement tough punishments for same-sex acts
A US gay rights group protests a possible purchase of New York's iconic Plaza Hotel by the sultan of Brunei, set to implement tough punishments for same-sex acts (AFP Photo/Don Emmert)

New York (AFP) - A US gay rights group protested Monday a possible purchase of New York's iconic Plaza Hotel by the sultan of Brunei, set to implement tough punishments for same-sex acts.

The sultan, via an intermediary, has offered some $2 billion to snap up the famous hotel at the foot of Central Park, as well as the Dream Downtown in Chelsea and Grosvenor House in London, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Since May, oil-rich Brunei's all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- who holds one of the world's largest fortunes -- has begun implementing a new penal code that will eventually include tough sharia, or Islamic law, penalties such as death by stoning for sodomy and adultery.

Human Rights Campaign director of global engagement Ty Cobb said the sultan could start executing women, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, as early as next year and called on New Yorkers to take a stand against his plans.

"The American profit stream that flows from his hotels back to his regime needs to stop," Cobb said in a statement.

"We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straight-forward message for the sultan: take your business elsewhere."

Celebrities, including British tycoon Richard Branson and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour, have called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by the sultan, including the Dorchester in London and Le Meurice in Paris.

The three hotels the sultan is currently eyeing are owned by the Sahara Group, whose chairman Subrata Roy -- known for his rags-to-riches story and mansion modeled on the White House -- was jailed in India in May for contempt after he missed a court hearing in a long-running row with the country's capital markets regulator.

Earlier this month, a company official said the Indian tycoon, seeking to raise $1.6 billion to win his release, has "interested" potential buyers for the trio of hotels.