Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed ordered to pay Princess Haya £554m in divorce settlement

Ruling in English court offers rare glimpse into world of Gulf elite

Jane Croft, Financial Times
December 21, 2021

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of Dubai, must pay about £554m in child maintenance and security costs to his estranged wife Princess Haya and their two children, in what is believed to be the largest post-divorce financial settlement awarded by an English court.

Mr Justice Moor said on Tuesday the Dubai ruler must pay a lump sum of £251.5m in three months, which will include the cost of the princess’s security for her lifetime. He must also provide a £290m HSBC bank guarantee underpinning an annual £11m maintenance payment, as well as ongoing security costs for the two children as adults, £3m to cover their education and £9.6m in maintenance arrears.

The High Court case has given a rare glimpse into the world of the Gulf elite and their staggering wealth, which the judge said in his ruling was “a truly opulent and unprecedented standard of living”.

It has also led to scrutiny and embarrassing revelations about Sheikh Mohammed, the vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates who is one of the Middle East’s highest-profile leaders.

The exact amount of the award is difficult to value because the court has ordered that the 72-year-old Sheikh Mohammed should pay annual security costs of millions of pounds for his two children, aged nine and 14, for the rest of their lives or until a further court order.

It is thought to be the biggest such financial settlement in London, which is known as the divorce capital of the world after a string of generous multimillion-pound awards for spouses.

The court’s ruling notes that the princess’s annual 2019 budget as wife of the ruler of Dubai was £72.9m and through trust structures she has a £95m home near Kensington Palace with five housekeepers and a handyman plus a £4.5m Windsor mansion.

Princess Haya, who fled Dubai for London in 2019, had sought £1.4bn from Sheikh Mohammed in London’s High Court for maintenance for their two children. She opted not to claim money in her own right as an ex-wife — except for the costs of her lifetime security plus £97m compensation claimed for personal items such as her jewellery collection of diamonds, pearls, sapphires and emeralds which she left in Dubai. She claimed the collection was worth £20m and could fill an entire courtroom. The judge awarded her £20.9m for personal possessions, including £13.6m for jewellery.

The financial settlement marks a final stage in one of the most bitter battles between the estranged couple, which led to a ruling by a High Court judge in October that said Sheikh Mohammed was prepared to use his “immense wealth, political power and international influence” against the 47-year-old princess and to allow his agents to hack her phone using NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus military-grade spyware.

The findings have tarnished the international reputation of Sheikh Mohammed, who has deep ties to the British establishment. He has been a guest of the Queen at Royal Ascot and a major player in the horseracing world through his Godolphin stables.

Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, has been receiving interim maintenance and told the court that since she arrived in Britain in 2019 she has been “fast eroding her capital”, according to details contained in the ruling.

“She said that her financial position was so bad that she was fast approaching the point where she would have to sell paintings, but she did not wish to do so as the children would then see what she was doing as there would be gaps on the walls of the property,” the judge’s ruling noted.

The judgment also noted that the princess dealt with alleged blackmail claims against her by paying £6.7m to four security operatives, although the judge’s ruling makes it clear the court heard no evidence from the alleged blackmailers.

The biggest item in the maintenance award is for the cost of providing security for Princess Haya and her children. Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the High Court, previously found that Sheikh Mohammed “constitutes a grave risk” to the security of the princess and the children.

“Most importantly in this regard, and absolutely uniquely, the main threat they [children and Haya] face is from HH [His Highness] himself, not from outside sources,” the judge said in the ruling, adding this was “compounded by the full weight of the state that he has available to him”. He noted that Princess Haya had testified that she felt “hunted” by her former husband.

Sheikh Mohammed said in a position statement cited in the ruling that he had “no intention” of causing harm to Princess Haya, had no “hacked” material in his possession and “there was no surveillance undertaken with his express or implied authority”. In October, he contested the court’s hacking ruling, stating it was based on incomplete evidence.

The ruling shines a light on the family’s spending. Details of Princess Haya’s £35.64m of expenditure from December 2019 to September 2021 was shown to the court — including £397,421 spent on UK holidays in 2021 plus £77,770 on holiday security.

The family’s holiday costs at a hotel in Italy one summer were £631,000 plus £180,000 in flight costs. A further €274,000 was spent at a hotel in Greece, plus £210,000 flight costs due to the need to have a private plane. Another £55,000 a week was required for expenses, including the hire of a private yacht.

The maintenance award allots the children a £5m annual budget for seven separate holidays over nine weeks — including £1.8m for private plane flights. The judge has allowed £1m a year for leisure costs and £277,050 a year for the upkeep of the children’s animals, as well as £100,000 a year for a private tutor and £111,295 per year for a nanny.

A spokesman for Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement: “He has always ensured that his children are provided for. The court has now made its ruling on finances and he does not intend to comment further. He asks that the media respect the privacy of his children and do not intrude into their lives in the UK.”

The settlement in numbers £251.5m Lump sum to be paid in three months, which includes the cost of security over Princess Haya’s lifetime. £290m Secured by HSBC guarantee to cover annual £11m maintenance. This includes a £5m budget for the two children’s holidays, £1.8m of which is for flights on private jets. £100,000 a year was allocated for a private tutor, £111,295 for a nanny and £137,000 for a children’s nurse £35.64m Princess Haya’s expenditure between December 2019 and September 2021, according to documents shown to the court. She has been receiving £84,000 a month in interim maintenance payments. She was awarded £9.6m in maintenance arrears £95m Value of the home near Kensington Palace, which Princess Haya has through trust structures; she also has a £4.5m Windsor mansion £20.9m Awarded to Princess Haya for personal possessions, including £13.6m for jewellery

The settlement in numbers

£251.5m

Lump sum to be paid in three months, which includes the cost of security over Princess Haya’s lifetime.

£290m

Secured by HSBC guarantee to cover annual £11m maintenance. This includes a £5m budget for the two children’s holidays, £1.8m of which is for flights on private jets. £100,000 a year was allocated for a private tutor, £111,295 for a nanny and £137,000 for a children’s nurse

£35.64m

Princess Haya’s expenditure between December 2019 and September 2021, according to documents shown to the court. She has been receiving £84,000 a month in interim maintenance payments. She was awarded £9.6m in maintenance arrears

£95m

Value of the home near Kensington Palace, which Princess Haya has through trust structures; she also has a £4.5m Windsor mansion

£20.9m

Awarded to Princess Haya for personal possessions, including £13.6m for jewellery