Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his runaway wife Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein are beginning a court battle in London on Tuesday over the welfare of their children, according to media reports.
The development comes after Princess Haya, the half-sister of King Abdullah of Jordan, apparently left Sheikh Mohammed with their children and moved to the UK following the “break-up” of their marriage.
The case is highly sensitive for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it has thrust the personal life of Sheikh Mohammed, one of the most high-profile leaders in the Middle East, back into the headlines. He is also the UAE’s Vice-President and Prime Minister.
Oxford-educated Princess Haya is the third female member of his court to run away from the UAE. She married Sheikh Mohammed in 2004, becoming his sixth and “junior” wife. The 70-year-old sheikh, who is the billionaire owner of Godolphin horse racing stables, reportedly has 23 children by different wives.
In June, the princess was reported to be in hiding in London fearing for her life. The UK court case centres around their children and not on their divorce or finances. The UAE has not commented on the dispute, calling it a “private family matter”, the Irish Times reported.
Princess Haya initially fled to Germany to try and seek asylum there, but it emerged in July that she was living in central London – specifically, in an 85 million pounds townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens, the BBC reported.
It’s believed that Princess Haya will want to stay in the UK. However, if her husband demands her return to Dubai, this could cause a diplomatic headache for Britain – which has close ties with the UAE.
After she fled, Sheikh Mohammed wrote an angry poem accusing an unnamed woman of betrayal and treachery, and posted it on his Instagram page, the BBC said.
According to the report, which cited sources close to the princess, she had recently discovered “disturbing facts” about the mysterious return to Dubai in 2018 of Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters.
Sheikha Latifa had escaped the UAE by sea with the help of a Frenchman, but was captured on a boat off the Indian coast. She was then returned to Dubai.
At the time, Princess Haya defended Dubai’s reputation over the incident, claiming that Sheikha Latifa had been “vulnerable to exploitation” and was “now safe in Dubai”.
Human rights advocates, however, said she was abducted against her will.