Abductions, hacking and horses: the Dubai royals’ UK custody battle


LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) – The High Court in London has ruled that the ruler of Dubai’s ex-wife should have sole responsibility for their children’s welfare, citing his “domestic abuse” towards her.

The decision marks the end of a three-year custody battle between Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Jordan’s Princess Haya. L5N2VI22V

Here is a timeline of the main events connected with the case, based on statements by lawyers and findings made in the English courts.

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June 2000 – Sheikha Shamsa, daughter of Mohammed and his Algerian wife Huriah Ahmed al M’aash, flees from her family while on holiday in England. Two months later she is abducted from the streets of Cambridge and taken back to Dubai.

Mohammed al-Shaibani, Director-General of the Ruler’s Court in Dubai, was closely involved, according to one High Court judgement.

April 2004 – Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, marries Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, half sister of Jordanian King Abdullah. They go on to have two children, Jalila and Zayed.

March 4, 2018 – Sheikha Latifa, Shamsa’s younger sister who tried to run away from her family in 2002, attempts to escape again. Armed Indian coast guards board the boat she was on 20 miles off the coast of India in international waters. Those on board are taken to Dubai.

It was her second escape attempt, having been stopped for three years after her first failed effort in 2002.

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April 15, 2019 – Haya, who had begun an affair with her British bodyguard at some stage in 2017 or 2018, flees Dubai with her two children, having become fearful for her life.

She later discovers that Mohammed had divorced her under sharia law on Feb. 7, the 20th anniversary of the death of her father, King Hussein.

Meanwhile, she pays out 6.7 million pounds to four members of her security team who blackmailed her over the affair.

May 14, 2019 – Mohammed begins legal action at the High Court in London seeking to have the children returned to Dubai.

March 2020 – After a series of hearings held in private, reporting restrictions are lifted to reveal that senior judge Andrew McFarlane had ruled that he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Haya.

These included that Mohammed was responsible for the abductions of Shamsa and Latifa, and they remained deprived of their liberty. The judge also concluded the sheikh had subjected his ex-wife to a campaign of intimidation which put her in fear for her life.

July 2020 – Agents working for Mohammed exploit a vulnerability in Apple’s iPhone to use the Pegasus software made by Israel’s NSO Group to hack the phones of Haya, her British lawyers Fiona Shackleton and Nick Manners, her personal assistant and two of her security team.

Aug. 5, 2020 – Shackleton is notified by another lawyer that their phones might have been hacked. The same day, Shackleton receives an urgent call from human rights lawyer Cherie Blair, an adviser to the NSO and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, warning her that her phone might have been hacked.

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May 5, 2021 – McFarlane rules that it was “more likely than not” the sheikh was responsible for the hacking.

June 2021 – A statement issued by Latifa through lawyers says she is now free to travel, after pictures of her abroad and in a shopping mall in Dubai are published on social media. Two months later, a campaign group which had been working to secure her release from Ella from Dubai said it was ending its work.

Oct. 2021 – McFarlane’s hacking judgment is made public. It is revealed NSO had canceled its contract with the United Arab Emirates as a result.

He also says those working for Mohammed also tried to buy a mansion next door and overlooking Haya’s estate near the British capital to intimidate her.

London police said they had carried out a five-month investigation into the hacking but had closed this in February due to a lack of “further investigative opportunities”. read more

Dec. 21, 2021 – The High Court in London orders Mohammed to pay 251.5 million pounds to Haya and provide a 290 million pound bank guarantee to settle the custody battle over their children. read more

March 24, 2022 – McFarlane’s final welfare judgment is published. He says Haya should have sole responsibility for the children’s medical care and schooling.

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Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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