Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered the abduction of two of his daughters and orchestrated a campaign of intimidation against his former wife, a British judge has ruled.
Towards the beginning of the judgment, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, described the sheikh as “a man of international prominence whose position and international standing justify a high level of respect”.
The billionaire sheikh, who became crown prince of Dubai in 1995, is on friendly terms with the British royal family and spends a considerable amount of time at his UK residences and visiting racing events. In June last year, just over a month after initiating proceedings against Princess Haya in the high court, he received a trophy from the Queen when one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot.
The sheikh has been credited with directing the emirate’s dramatic transformation and its international standing, including through the “Destination Dubai” tourism brand.
In 2001, he announced plans for the famous Palm Jumeirah, a tree-shaped sand and rock formation, one of a number of projects aimed at attracting international visitors.
An accomplished poet and horse-rider, he became ruler of Dubai after the death of his elder brother in 2006. The UAE official website hails his philanthropy and describes him as a “people’s person”.
Judge Andrew McFarlane said he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Mohammed's former wife, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, 45, half-sister of Jordan's King Abdullah, during a custody battle over their two children at London's High Court.
These included that Mohammed arranged for his daughter Shamsa, then aged 18, to be kidnapped off the streets of Cambridge in central England in 2000, and had her flown back to Dubai where she remains in captivity.
Sheikh Mohammed is also the vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. He has fathered 25 children; his two with Haya are the youngest.
He refused to attend any of the multiple hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. His wife, Haya, was a constant presence in court, sitting alongside her solicitor, the prominent divorce lawyer Lady Shackleton.
The sheikh, who was represented by Lord Pannick QC, changed his legal team intermittently.
The judgment goes into detail about the campaign of harassment endured by Haya. The judge accepted virtually all her allegations as true on the balance of probabilities, including that the sheikh:
He also arranged for Shamsa's younger sister Latifa to be snatched from a boat in international waters off India by Indian forces in 2018 and returned to the emirate.
In the judgements published on Thursday, McFarlane, President of the Family Court division in England and Wales, also accepted that the sheikh subjected Haya to a campaign of intimidation which put her in fear of her life.
His conclusions could only be reported after restrictions were lifted on Thursday after the UK Supreme Court earlier rejected Mohammed's request for permission to appeal against their publication.
McFarlane ends his judgment saying: “I have … concluded that, save for some limited exceptions, the mother has proved her case with respect to the factual allegations that she has made.
“… These findings, taken together, demonstrate a consistent course of conduct over two decades where, if he deems it necessary to do so, the father [Sheikh Mohammed] will use the very substantial powers at his disposal to achieve his particular aims.”
Sources: (Reuters & The Guardian)