The Sultan of Brunei, who has introduced a new law which will punish adultery and homosexual sex with death by stoning, is one of the world’s richest men and the world’s second longest-reigning monarch.
In 2008 Forbes estimated the Sultan’s total peak net worth at US$20 billion.
Brunei is a former British colony which gained its independence in 1984. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s transformed Brunei into an industrialised country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Forbes ranks Brunei as the fifth-richest nation out of 182, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields.
The Sultan’s official residence is the Istana Nurul Iman, with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet.
Hassanal Bolkiah, born 15 July 1946, succeeded to the throne as the Sultan of Brunei following the abdication of his father on 5 October 1967.
He received high school education in Malaysia, after which he attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, graduating in 1967. The Sultan holds an honourary commission in the Royal Air Force as an Air Chief Marshal. He is also an Honorary Admiral of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom and has an English residence at Binfield Manor in Berkshire.
In Brunei, Bolkiah serves as Prime Minister, head of government, Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance.
Residents enjoy a high standard of living with medicines and medical treatment free of charge to children, policemen and members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces in hospitals and government clinics, and subject to a small charge for others. Other facilities offered include subsidised housing.
In 1991, Bolkiah introduced a conservative ideology to Brunei called Melayu Islam Beraja, which presents the monarchy as the defender of the faith.
During his reign mosques have been built across the country. The Sultan has also decreed that celebrations such as the Prophet’s birthday be celebrated on a large scale.
In 2014, Bolkiah advocated the adoption of Islamic sharia penalties, including that adultery is to be punished with death by stoning only when proven by the testimony of four trusted, impartial, and truthful witnesses in attendance.
Hassanal Bolkiah also banned public celebrations of Christmas in 2015, including wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus. The ban affects only local Muslims; Christians are still allowed to celebrate Christmas.
As of 2012, Hassanal Bolkiah has five sons and seven daughters with his three wives.
He is passionate about cars. The royal family always maintains a collection of over 100 cars and the palace has the underground garage to accommodate them. He once owned one of the largest private car collections in the world with about 2,500 vehicles.