When You Pay $9 Million for a License Plate, a $800,000 Rolls-Royce Seems Cheap


When you can have – and you actually do get – any car in the world you want, spending a fortune on a vanity plate seems a given. If you live in Dubai, you have to get several of them just to save face. Because nothing makes for better escapism than a look over to the glamorous side, where the grass really is greener, BBC Two has a new docuseries called Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich. Dubai is a very rich city with incredibly rich people, so the series, which premiered this week, delivered exactly the kind of content you were probably expecting: rich men and women showing off their lavish lifestyles, including designer collections and automotive fleets. Of them was a businessman called Abu Sabah, who boasted on camera that he was the owner of the world’s most expensive license plate. That claim isn’t technically true because the title goes to the 1 license plate, but it’s close enough: Sabah owns the single-digit plate 5, which he bought for $9 million. He told the producers that he bought it because he’d been turned away from a hotel because his “pretty nice car” didn’t have a “nice enough” plate on it. He was also informed that a nicer plate would have been a double-digit one, so he went out and got himself several of them: 48, 49 and 27. The single-digit 5 is the most valuable in his collection and the one he’s most proud of, he said. The $800,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom that wears it is cheap by comparison. As you can imagine, viewers at home didn’t exactly sympathize with the pain he must’ve felt when he was turned away from a hotel for not having the right license plate on his expensive car. The money was his to spend, but maybe bragging about it to the world isn’t wise – least of all not when so much good could have been carried out with that amount, they’re saying on Twitter, under the #InsideDubai hashtag. Abu Sabah is actually Balwinder Sahni, the Chairman and CEO of RSG International, and his story of the 5 license plate is different from the one he told in 2016, when he bought it at auction. The only constant is that he paid $9 million for it. Back then, he claimed to have bought it because D5, which is what the plate reads, is the number 9. As it so happens, 9 is his lucky number. Also then, Sahni took issue with people criticizing him for his collection of license plates. “I did not get the special number for publicity sake. It is my passion, and as charity, I enjoy it,” he told Alarabya News then. “How can people judge me? Let them come and meet me and know who I am as a person. I never wanted to announce this. I have kept quiet about the charities I have done for the last 10 years.” So much for not wanting publicity for his lavish purchase.