Saudi prince ordered to pay £25,000 over court no-show in 'secret wife' case
A Saudi prince has been ordered to pay £25,000 to charity for failing to attend the High Court in London, in person to defend himself against a claim that he promised millions of pounds to his father's "secret wife".
The judge, sitting in London, was told Prince Abdul Aziz - son of the late King Fahd - could not attend because of fears of the Saudi royal family that it would lead to a "media circus".
Palestinian-born Janan Harb, 67, says she secretly married King Fahd - then a prince and minister of the interior of Saudi Arabia - in 1968 when she was 19 and he repeatedly promised "to look after me and maintain me for the rest of my life".
Ms Harb is claiming that Prince Aziz, the son of another wife of the late king, met her at the Dorchester Hotel in London in the early hours of June 20 2003 when the king was seriously ill.
She told Chancery Division judge Mr Justice Peter Smith at a recent hearing the prince entered into a binding agreement to pay her £12 million and transfer back to her two flats in Pier House, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, to keep his father's promise to look after her.
The prince has made written statements to the court denying her claim, but the judge ordered him to attend court to back up his denial with oral evidence.
The judge said the lynchpin of the case was whether he believed Ms Harb or the prince, and the best way to decide was to hear the prince give oral evidence and be cross-examined, as Ms Harb had done.
Prince Aziz was given a deadline to attend court but failed to appear. Ian Mill QC, for the prince, told the judge in July that his uncle, the current Saudi monarch King Salman, was still opposing him entering the witness box.
Today Mr Mill said the prince "sincerely apologised" and wished to purge his contempt of court and suggested that the sincerity of the apology was sufficient to avoid a sanction having to be imposed.
But the judge said there had to be a sanction because the prince "did not provide a reason for his non-attendance that was acceptable to me".
The judge ordered the prince to donate £25,000 to a legal charity, or charities, which help people with legal problems who lack means to gain access to the courts.
He is expected to give a ruling on Ms Harb's claim in the near future.
In a written statement seen by the judge today, the prince said he had been placed in "an impossible position" when he was forbidden to fly to London to give evidence.
He said: "It is to my deep personal regret that I could not comply with the (High Court) order because I was forbidden from so attending by the (Saudi) Royal Court.
"The order from the Royal Court placed me in an impossible position because I was confronted with conflicting obligations.
"By my non-attendance, I understand that I acted in breach of the terms of the (High Court) order.
"I humbly and sincerely apologise to the English Court for that. It was not out of any disrespect to the English Court that I failed to comply with the order but because of the impossible position I was placed in as a consequence of the Royal Court's order."