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British Court Orders Dubai Ruler to Pay £554 Million in Custody Settlement

LONDON — London’s High Court has ordered the ruler of Dubai to pay his ex-wife and their two children more than 554 million pounds, according to court documents released Tuesday that said he posed “grave risk” to their safety.

The documents detail a custody settlement, dated Nov. 19, that appears to be one of the largest in British history, equivalent to about $734 million. The settlement also appears to resolve a two-year court battle between Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, who fled to London in 2019, seeking political asylum and a divorce.

Lawyers representing Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.

The princess’s flight from Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates, followed failed efforts to leave by two of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters from another marriage, Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum and Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum.

Sheikh Mohammed’s representatives have denied that the women are being held against their will.

In October, court documents revealed that Sheikh Mohammed had used high-tech software purchased from an Israeli company to hack the cellphones of his ex-wife, two of her lawyers and three other associates.

In the court documents made public this week, Judge Philip Moor cited the hacking and “his kidnapping of Sheikha Shamsa and Sheikha Latifa,” among other factors, in saying that Sheikh Mohammed “constitutes a grave risk” to the princess and their children.

Judge Moor said that Princess Haya and the children, given their status, would have required security in any event, but he emphasized that “they are particularly vulnerable and need watertight security to ensure their continued safety and security in this country.”

The judge added that Princess Haya was not asking “for an award for herself other than for security” and compensation for items she had lost as a result of the end of her marriage.

The court ordered Sheikh Mohammed to make a lump-sum payment of £251.5 million, about $330 million, to Princess Haya, who was the most visible of the sheikh’s reported six wives. Documents said the money was to go toward the upkeep of her British homes, future security and what she was owed for jewelry and racehorses.

Sheikh Mohammed must also pay more than £3 million for the education of the couple’s two children, plus about £10 million in arrears, the court documents said.

The payments will be guaranteed through a £290 million security held by HSBC Bank. The final sum of more than half a billion pounds was significantly less than the £1.4 billion lawyers for Princess Haya had requested in October, court documents said.

The divorce case of Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammad has provided glimpses into the lives of Dubai’s royalty, one of the world’s wealthiest royal families. After Princess Haya, originally from Jordan, left her husband in 2019, he began publishing his romantic anguish online, in Arabic and English.

“O sweetheart, there’s nothing more to say. / Your deathly silence has worn me out,” he wrote in one poem posted on his official website at the time. “You no longer have a place with me,” said another. “I don’t care if you live or die.”

By July 2019, Princess Haya had asked a London court for custody of the couple’s two children and a nonmolestation order protecting her from violence or harassment.

Last year, Princess Haya raised the abduction allegations before Britain’s High Court as part of the custody case, as well as the hacking. In the judgment in a British civil court case, a judge ruled that agents of Sheikh Mohammed, using software known as Pegasus and sold by the Israel-based NSO Group, had carried out surveillance of several people.

Those people included a lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who is also a baroness and a sitting member of the House of Lords — potentially creating tension in the close relationship between Britain and the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai.

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