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Ruler of Dubai abused former wife, High Court finds

Princess Haya will now have sole responsibility for their two children in regards to their medical care and schooling.

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Owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum during day two of Glorious Goodwood at Goodwood Racecourse, Chichester.

Owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum during day two of Glorious Goodwood at Goodwood Racecourse, Chichester.

Owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum during day two of Glorious Goodwood at Goodwood Racecourse, Chichester.

The ruler of Dubai abused his former wife to an “exorbitant degree”, the High Court has found at the end of a lengthy legal battle over their two children.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 72, “consistently displayed coercive and controlling behaviour with respect to those members of his family who he regards as behaving contrary to his will,” senior judge Sir Andrew McFarlane said in a judgment published on Thursday.

The ruling is expected to be the final significant decision in the court case between Sheikh Mohammed and his sixth wife Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 47, who fled the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April 2019, having become “terrified” of her then-husband.

In the most recent judgment, Sir Andrew – the most senior family court judge in England and Wales – limited Sheikh Mohammed’s parental responsibility for his daughter and son, Al Jalila, 14, and Zayed, 10.

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Princess Haya previously attended hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Princess Haya previously attended hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

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Princess Haya previously attended hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Princess Haya will now have sole responsibility for their two children in regards to their medical care and schooling.

“The decision to afford the mother sole responsibility for these important matters is justified by the need to reduce the potential for continuing harm to the children,” Sir Andrew ruled, finding the co-parenting relationship was “entirely bankrupt”.

At the start of the lengthy proceedings, Sheikh Mohammed applied for the summary return of the two children to Dubai.

However, since October 2019 he has accepted they will live in England, and recently opted not to pursue direct contact with the two children.

This means he will have no face-to-face contact with the children, but can instead contact them indirectly, such as through telephone calls.

It will have totally dominated her thoughts, taken away her peace of mind and removed from her any sense of autonomySir Andrew McFarlane

After fleeing to the UK nearly three years ago, Princess Haya applied for the children to be made wards of court and asked the High Court to make a series of findings about Sheikh Mohammed.

This led to nearly 20 judgments – including two fact-finding rulings and a record-breaking financial award of around £550 million for Princess Haya’s lifelong security costs and the children’s care.

Sheikh Mohammed, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, was previously found to have conducted a “campaign of fear and intimidation” against Princess Haya, as well as hacking her phone and orchestrating the abduction of two of his adult daughters.

In Thursday’s judgment, Sir Andrew found that Sheikh Mohammed’s behaviour towards his ex-wife was domestic abuse “conducted on a scale which is entirely outside the ordinary circumstances of cases heard in the family court in this jurisdiction”.

He added: “Given his immense power and wealth, the potential for the father, and those in Dubai who do his bidding, to act remorselessly against the interests of the mother has been proved during these proceedings.”

The judge said that the “sustained” abuse towards Princess Haya likely had “a profound impact upon every aspect of her day-to-day life and her emotional wellbeing”.

He continued: “It will have totally dominated her thoughts, taken away her peace of mind and removed from her any sense of autonomy.”

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Sheikh Mohammed is heavily involved in horse racing, the court has previously heard (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sheikh Mohammed is heavily involved in horse racing, the court has previously heard (Joe Giddens/PA)

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Sheikh Mohammed is heavily involved in horse racing, the court has previously heard (Joe Giddens/PA)

In an earlier ruling, Sheikh Mohammed was banned from buying a £30 million estate directly overlooking his ex-wife’s home in Berkshire, with Sir Andrew finding the attempted purchase took place “in secret”.

The High Court also previously heard that the multimillion-pound spyware Pegasus – which is only available to states – had been used on Princess Haya’s phone with the ruler’s “express or implied authority”.

The phone hacking, which Sir Andrew described as an “astonishingly intrusive and abusive action”, also targeted members of Princess Haya’s security and legal teams – including her solicitor and Conservative peer Baroness Shackleton.

In the most recent ruling, Sir Andrew said: “The father has acted, in a wide manner of ways, over a period of years, in a wholly coercive and controlling manner towards the children’s mother to a degree which can only be seen by her to be all consuming and all encompassing.

“His Highness’ behaviour towards the mother, in each of its separate manifestations, whether by threats, poems, coordinating press reports, covertly arranging to purchase property immediately overlooking hers, phone-hacking or in the conduct of this litigation, has been abusive to a high, indeed exorbitant, degree.

“Despite the court’s findings, in no respect has His Highness accepted that any of this behaviour has either taken place or that he has had any part in orchestrating it.”

There are no words, no words at all, to describe the love, respect, admiration, and pride I have for the two bravest souls of all, Jalila and Zayed. They have met every hardship and challenge with dignity, faith and a renewed resolve to be kinder and more humble people, determined to love, serve, and contribute to a better worldPrincess Haya

Sir Andrew later said he accepted that Sheikh Mohammed loved the two children, who loved him back.

However, the judge later said there was an “absence of any acceptance of responsibility, expression of remorse or understanding of the impact of this behaviour on the mother” by Sheikh Mohammed.

“There has been not one word of apology to, or sympathy for, her,” Sir Andrew added.

In her first statement about the High Court case, Princess Haya said that her and her children “are not pawns to be used for division” after the ruling.

She said: “There are no words, no words at all, to describe the love, respect, admiration, and pride I have for the two bravest souls of all, Jalila and Zayed.

“They have met every hardship and challenge with dignity, faith and a renewed resolve to be kinder and more humble people, determined to love, serve, and contribute to a better world.”

A spokesperson for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said the ruler wished to make clear that: “He loves his children and cherishes their love for him. He has always cared and provided for them, and always will.

“He maintains his denial of the allegations made in these contentious proceedings, and asks that the media respect the privacy of his children and do not intrude into their lives.”

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