The legal fight between Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed

Ruler of Dubai ordered to pay divorce settlement that could exceed £550m

Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein and her lawyer, Baroness Fiona Shackleton
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein with her lawyer Fiona Shackleton last year
(Image credit: Pete Summers/Getty Images)

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been ordered to pay around £550m to his former wife and their two children in what could amount to the largest award of its kind ordered by an English court.

The massive payout was awarded to Princess Haya, who has a son and daughter with the prime minister of the United Arab Emirate, in order to “protect them from the threat” Sheikh Mohammed poses to them, The Guardian said.

In a written judgment, Mr Justice Moor said that “uniquely” the “main threat they face is from HH (his highness the sheikh) himself not from outside sources”, adding that this is “compounded by the full weight of the state that he has available to him”.

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Unhappy families

Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, who is the half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, married Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2004. The Dubai ruler, also vice-president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reportedly has 23 children by different wives.

In early 2019, the princess fled Dubai with her two children. She was reported to be fearful for her life after beginning an affair with her British bodyguard.

She initially fled to Germany but now lives in an £85m townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens, near the home of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Jordanian embassy made Haya a senior diplomat in October 2019, granting her diplomatic immunity and protection, as well as the right to remain in the UK.

Haya, now 47, is the third female member of her husband’s court “to apparently try to run away”, the BBC reported after she fled to London.

In 2000, four years before Haya married the sheikh, one of his daughters fled from her family while at their holiday home in Surrey. Sheikha Shamsa, then 19, was abducted and returned home two months later. She has not been seen in public since.

Her sister, Latifa, also tried to flee from the UAE in 2018, on a boat, but the vessel was intercepted by commandos off the coast of India. She was returned to Dubai and has also not been seen in public since.

After Haya fled in 2019, Sheikh Mohammed divorced her under sharia law and applied to London’s High Court for the return of his children. The judge rejected the request.

‘Walls are closing in’

During court hearings in October, the princess said she has been “beset by threats and pressures” since leaving Dubai more than two years ago, the Financial Times reported.

According to the paper, her lawyers successfully managed to extend an existing non-molestation order (a type of injunction often sought by domestic abuse victims) that “banned the sheikh or his associates from a 100-metre exclusion zone” around her Berkshire bolthole, Castlewood mansion.

The injunction also reportedly upheld “a 1,000ft no-fly zone above it to protect her and blocked any purchase of the 77-acre estate”.

“The prospect of Sheikh Mohammed, or those on his behalf buying the properties around Castlewood is terrifying and utterly wearing,” Haya was said to have testified. “It feels like the walls are closing in on me. I feel like I am defending myself against a whole ‘state’.”

A senior High Court judge ruled earlier this year that Sheikh Mohammed had used Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of the princess and five of her associates, including two of her lawyers.

In a “damning” judgment made in May but not published until early October, Haya’s phone was found to have been hacked 11 times in July and August last year with Sheikh Mohammed’s “express or implied authority”, The Guardian reported.

Judge Andrew McFarlane, chair of the Family Justice Council, said the hacking occurred during “a particularly busy and financially interesting time” in the ongoing divorce custody case between the Sheikh and his estranged wife.

Sheikh Mohammed was not present in court during the hearing and has denied the hacking allegations. “As a head of government involved in private family proceedings, it was not appropriate for me to provide evidence on such sensitive matters,” he said in a statement.

While the allegations are “embarrassing” for the sheikh, said BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, his “sovereign immunity from any future potential prosecution” means “there is little or no prospect of his ever having to face any police questioning”.

Record settlement

The £550m payout intended to “cover the costs of security for Haya’s lifetime” will be “paid upfront rather than annually as it would otherwise create a situation whereby it was in her ex-husband’s interests to reduce the payments”, The Guardian said.

Princess Haya “did not ask for any money for herself in the proceedings, other than to compensate for items including jewellery and clothes that she lost as a result of the marital breakdown”.

As part of the settlement, Sheikh Mohammed will be forced to “make a one-off payment of £251.5m within three months to Haya for the upkeep of her mansions in the UK”, Sky News reported, as well as “£3m towards the education” of his children.

All of the funds will be guaranteed through a £290m security held by HSBC bank.

The final sum is “less than half of the £1.4b that Haya had originally wanted”, the broadcaster said, “despite being described by some London lawyers to be the largest public award ever ordered by an English family court”.

A spokesperson for the sheikh said after the hearing: “He has always ensured that his children are provided for. The court has now made its ruling on finances and he does not intend to comment further.

“He asks that the media respect the privacy of his children and do not intrude into their lives in the UK.”

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