A powerful Saudi Arabian oil official's son who jumped bail seven years ago after conviction on a reckless driving charge in Santa Barbara County has turned himself in, authorities said Thursday.
Tarek Abdulhadi Taher, 31, a former UC Santa Barbara student, fled in 1982 after being sentenced to serve 45 days in jail for racing his Ferrari on U.S. 101.
Deputy Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Darryl Perlin said a highly placed U.S. State Department lawyer unsuccessfully asked at that time that the case be dropped in the interest of good relations with oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
Taher was rearrested on a fugitive warrant three years later in Boston but disappeared once again when a judge there allowed him to remain free on $100,000 bail, rather than the $5 million requested by Santa Barbara County prosecutors.
He was not heard from again until this week, when his attorney telephoned, Perlin said. Taher surrendered himself Wednesday in the court of Municipal Judge Frank Ochoa, who--under an agreement with the prosecutors--ordered him to serve his 45-day sentence on a work furlough program. He will spend nights and weekends in jail while being allowed to work for a Santa Barbara real estate firm on weekdays.
'A Simple ... Case'
Perlin said the district attorney's office agreed to the deal because "it is a simple misdemeanor case and he is eligible for that (work furlough) anyway.
The prosecutor said, "We feel this is one of the most significant cases ever handled by our office . . . because it took on international implications."
He said that a senior U.S. State Department attorney called to express concern that "the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia could be jeopardized" if the matter was pursued.
Perlin said the State Department lawyer pointed out that Taher is the son of Dr. Abdulhadi H. Taher, governor of the Saudi Arabian government-owned company that develops the Mideast nation's petroleum, petrochemical and mineral industries.
"Here's a guy who always got his way," Perlin said Thursday. "He finally came around."