The billionaire ruler of Dubai is battling his wife for custody of their two children in a London court, in what is set to be one of the most expensive and fiercely contested such cases in UK history.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum – founder and owner of Ireland’s world famous Godolphin horse-racing stud – has made an application to divorce his wife of 15 years, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, in the Family Court Division of the High Court. It will be heard by Andrew McFarlane, its president, on July 30.
Both sides have appointed some of Britain’s best-known lawyers.
Princess Haya (45), the sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, and the most glamorous and visible of the sheikh’s six wives, reportedly left the royal palace in Dubai last month for Germany.
She then travelled on to the UK, where she is now believed to be staying in the Emirati royal family’s €95m house in Kensington Palace Gardens.
Princess Haya, a friend of former Irish President Mary Robinson, was conspicuously absent from Royal Ascot this year, despite being an Olympic rider and a regular at races.
Sheikh Mohammed (69), one of the world’s wealthiest men, has extensive horse racing interests in Ireland, with a number of studs.
The princess, who spent much of her childhood in the UK before studying at Oxford University, has not yet requested government assistance or asylum through official channels, but is hoping to remain in the country.
It is not known exactly why the princess left Dubai, with one clue being a poem posted by the sheikh on Instagram accusing an unidentified woman of “treachery and betrayal”.
“You no longer have a place within me, go to who has kept you occupied,” he wrote, ending with, “I do not care whether you live or die.”
Sources close to Princess Haya suggested she fled Dubai after discovering details behind the mysterious return last year of Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters from a different marriage.
Sheikha Latifa, and her sister, Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum, had dramatically fled UAE by yacht in February 2018 before being intercepted by armed men off the coast of India.
Sheikha Latifa made a video at the time of her attempted flight claiming she had been held as a virtual prisoner in the palace.
Princess Haya had initially supported the return of her step-daughter. However there have been suggestions she had come to feel differently about some of the facts of the case and was coming under pressure from members of her husband’s family.
A source told the BBC she feared she may now be abducted and sent back to Dubai.
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