£554m record divorce award against Dubai’s ruler
On 21 December 2021, the judgment in proceedings brought by Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan against her ex-husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the current ruler of Dubai was published (Her Royal Highness Haya Bint Al Hussein v His Highness Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum  EWFC 94). Sheikh Mohammed has been ordered to pay a lump sum of £251.5m to Princess Haya within three months, establish a £3m education fund for the couple’s two children, and to make periodic payments of £5.6m a year for the benefit of the children, secured by a £290m bank guarantee. The provisions also include payments of £11m a year for Princess Haya and the children’s security costs as well as funds for property maintenance, personal staff etc and total approximately£554m, breaking the previous record award of £450m that was awarded to Tatiana Akhmedova in 2017 (as discussed previously here).
While the hearings themselves were held in private in the first instance, details have subsequently emerged that indicate that Princess Haya has spent in excess of £70m on legal fees, in pursuing her claim, while Sheikh Mohammed is believed to have spent significantly more.
Aside from the sums involved, this case was of note because of the extent of the concerns surrounding Sheikh Mohammad’s personal conduct. At the first fact finding hearing in November 2019, for example, the Court found that Sheikh Mohammad had, amongst other things, used his press connections to generate hostile stories in attempts to destabilise the Princess, and had previously ordered and orchestrated the abduction of two of his elder children (from a previous marriage) back to Dubai, including one abducted from the UK in 2000. Moreover, the Court concluded that not only did Sheikh Mohammad have very substantial powers but that he would use them to achieve his aims, implicitly to Princess Haya’s detriment.
These fears were subsequently borne out when it was determined, at a further fact finding hearing on 14 October 2021, that the telephones of Princess Haya, her PA, two of her security staff, and at least two of her lawyers had been hacked. In the 'hacking judgment' on 5 May 2021 (Re Al M  EWHHC 1162 (Fam)), the Court found that Sheikh Mohammad was the “probable originator of the hacking and no other person comes close as a likely instigator”, based on the fact that the Pegasus software used to hack the phones was the kind sold only to sovereign states (it was intended for use against terrorists). Sheikh Mohammad continues to deny that he was involved in the hacking.
It was also brought to the Court’s attention that Sheikh Mohammad had attempted to purchase a substantial property that was adjacent to Princess Haya’s country home in Egham during proceedings. This was, according to Princess Haya, allegedly yet another attempt by the Sheikh to intimidate and harass her. The pandemic, however, paused the property deal and the Sheikh cancelled the purchase after the allegation of harassment.
The Court took all of the above into consideration when it came to making an order in relation to Princess Haya and the children’s security costs – agreeing that a fleet of armoured cars would be necessary, as would a subsequent expansion of the parking facilities at the Princess’ property, as well as the general enlisting of an unnamed security company (referred to as Company X in the judgment) to provide these services. The Court continued to consider the increased cost that security measures would add to family holidays and, in a relatively unusual step for a Children Act application, also considered security costs for the children well into their adulthood, in reaching its decision about quantum.
As the sums of money that were in dispute in this case were so immense and the personal conduct issues so extreme, it is easy to forget that many elements of the human tragedy played out in Hussein v Maktoum are simply the more exaggerated version of issues that will be familiar to many, less well-off, people that have been through an acrimonious divorce. Even the position, advanced by Sheikh Mohammad, that he was immune to civil proceedings because of his position will be familiar to those who have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with parties that do not feel that the rules apply to them. It is reassuring that, despite the grandiose scale of the questions asked and characters involved in this matter, the Court was not intimidated and came to a reasonable and well-reasoned judgement.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.