Dubai Ruler Ordered to Pay More Than $728 Million in Divorce Settlement

London court rules Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid must pay Princess Haya a lump sum of about $333 million plus annual payments

Allison Prang, Stephen Kalin, The Wall Street Journal
December 21, 2021

A London court awarded the former wife of Dubai’s ruler a divorce settlement of more than £550 million, equivalent to more than $728 million, in a rare case that pulled back the curtain on the luxurious lifestyle of one of the world’s richest and most discreet families.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, a daughter of Jordan’s late King Hussein, left Dubai for the U.K. in 2019 with the two young children she had with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. She said she feared for her life after Sheikh Mohammed had previously ordered that two of his other children be forced back to the United Arab Emirates. Princess Haya later discovered that Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the prime minister of the U.A.E., had divorced her months earlier under Shariah law without her knowing.

Princess Haya, 47 years old, sued Sheikh Mohammed, 72, in the High Court in London. She was awarded a lump sum of £251.5 million, to be paid within three months, and annual payments including for the maintenance of an £87.5 million estate near Kensington Palace in West London and about £277,000 for show horses.

The court also ordered Sheikh Mohammed to fund budgets for their two children, ages 9 and 14, including for education and security. The judge said he determined the children faced the greatest security threat from their father, besides the threats of terrorism and kidnapping given their status.

The court found reasonable evidence that Sheikh Mohammed was “the probable originator” of the hacking during the proceedings of phones belonging to Princess Haya, members of her staff and at least two of her lawyers, Nicholas Manners and Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, a sitting member of the House of Lords. The court previously found that Sheikh Mohammed had ordered and orchestrated the abduction of two of his other children, forced them to return to Dubai and detained them there.

The Dubai Media Office didn’t respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Sheikh Mohammed told the Associated Press in a statement that the leader has always ensured his children are provided for. “The court has now made its ruling on finances and he does not intend to comment further,” the statement said.

Sheikh Mohammed is a major figure in international horse racing and breeding, and has been a regular guest of Queen Elizabeth at the annual Royal Ascot horse races. He has extensive property holdings in the U.K., including several country estates, though the line is often blurred between his personal holdings and those of the city-state he inherited control of from his older brother.

Should Sheikh Mohammed decide not to adhere to the court’s ruling, lawyers for the princess will likely pursue enforcement, according to legal experts. At that point, the ruler could try to claim sovereign immunity, though dragging out the dispute could risk his international reputation, they say.

The judge awarded Princess Haya roughly £13.7 million in compensation for lost jewelry and £1 million for haute couture. The judge also ruled that Sheikh Mohammed should make a roughly £5.3 million payment on the princess’ home near Kensington Palace now, instead of in 2026, and that he should pay about £1.9 million for a kitchen extension, pizza oven and kitchen curtains in the princess’ home.

“I remind myself that money was no object during the marriage,” the judge wrote in the ruling, adding that the cost to renovate the London home “was many times that when the property was not nearly as central to the children’s lives as it is today.”