Payment to protect Princess Haya and children from threat sheikh poses to them is highest awarded by a UK court
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Princess Haya attending Derby Day at Epsom Downs Racecourse in 2016. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images
The Guardian-Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent
The ruler of Dubai has been ordered to pay his ex-wife Princess Haya and their two children a divorce settlement which could reach over half a billion pounds – the highest ever awarded by a UK court – to protect them from the threat he poses to them.
In a written judgment, Mr Justice Moor said that “uniquely” the “main threat” to Haya and the children came from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also prime minister of the United Arab Emirate, a close Gulf ally of Britain.
Haya fled to Britain in April 2019 with her two children. Since then, in a series of hearings concerned with custody, access and financial support, which have so far cost over £70m in legal fees, high court judges have found on the balance of probabilities that:
- Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated the abductions of two of his other children, Princess Latifa and Princess Shamsa – in the latter case from the streets of Cambridge – and subjected Haya to a campaign of “intimidation”.
- Using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, he hacked the phones of Haya and five of her associates, including two of her lawyers, while the couple were locked in court proceedings.
- His agents attempted to buy a £30m estate next door to Haya’s Berkshire home in a “very significant threat to her security”.
Referring to the previous rulings, Moor, who ordered that the sheikh pay over £250m upfront to Haya and provide a bank guarantee of £290m for annual payments, said: “I am entirely satisfied that this means that, although HRH (her royal highness Haya) and the children would require security provision in any event, given their status and the general threats of terrorism and kidnap faced in such circumstances, they are particularly vulnerable and need water-tight security to ensure their continued safety and security in this country.
“Most importantly in this regard, and absolutely uniquely, the main threat they face is from HH (his highness the sheikh) himself not from outside sources. This is compounded by the full weight of the state that he has available to him as seen by his ability to make use of the Pegasus software, which is only available to governments.”
The high court judge ordered the costs of security for Haya’s lifetime to 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 so that it “weakened the defences of HRH against him”.
Haya, who in Dubai was given £83m a year for her household spending plus an allowance of £9m per annum and ad hoc gifts, 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.
Details of her spending provided for the proceedings included £6.7m paid to four security staff during her marriage to Sheikh Mohammed after they had allegedly blackmailed her over an affair she had had with one of them. The court had previously heard of the affair and of a phone call the sheikh made to her about it that left her “terrified”. Her ex-husband criticised her use of some funds from the children’s accounts to pay the alleged blackmailers. Moor did not hear from any of the alleged blackmailers, but said, while it would have been “preferable” if Haya had used her own cash, “she was in a very difficult position indeed. She would have been desperate for HH not to find out”.
He said he found her a believable witness, while the sheikh did not give evidence.
The settlement includes £210m, which must be paid within three months, to cover the security costs of Haya, for her expected lifetime, and her children until they finish tertiary education. The sheikh must also pay £41.5m up front to his ex-wife for chattels cash for education and maintenance arrears and £5.6m a year for each child for maintenance until they finish their tertiary education, when he must instead pay them directly the same amount but for their security. If the bank guarantee were used in full, the settlement would reach £554m, although that could vary depending on how long the yearly payments last.
Moor said there could be a reconsideration of the payments if the children’s security situation changes when they are adults as a result of reconciliation with their father of his death, but it was not a given. For now, he said the risk to them was “clear and ever present”.