The lawyer who represented Prince Charles during his divorce has been asked to advise on the bitter split between the ruler of Dubai and his wife, who has fled to London in fear for her safety, legal sources claim.
The involvement of Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia could be a sign that London will be chosen for divorce proceedings, which are likely to lead to a record financial settlement.
Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, 45, is said to be living in her London mansion after leaving Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 69.
Lady Shackleton represented the Prince of Wales in his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales. She also acted for the Duke of York in his split from Sarah, Duchess of York, and Paul McCartney after the end of his marriage to Heather Mills. She is the solicitor for the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
Princess Haya and the sheikh are already embroiled in a legal dispute over the future of their two children, Jalila, 11, and Zayed, 7. Lady Shackleton, 63, known as the Steel Magnolia because of her ferocious legal ability and charm, did not respond to requests for comment on whether she was involved in advising the couple.
London is renowned for handling high-value international divorces and a settlement could surpass the record £453 million awarded to the wife of Farkhad Akhmedov, a Russian oligarch, in 2016.
The Times revealed on Monday that Princess Haya, the British-educated daughter of the former king of Jordan, is in hiding at her £85 million mansion close to Kensington Palace. She appears to have spent months planning her new life in Britain, having set up a company called Candlelight Services to provide “support” and “office administrative services” in November last year. The company is registered to an office block in Mayfair, central London.
Friends have claimed that she decided to leave Dubai after discovering “disturbing facts” about Princess Latifa, 33, one of her step-daughters, who was seized on a yacht off the coast of India while allegedly attempting to escape Dubai in March last year.
Princess Haya encouraged her friend Mary Robinson, a former Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to travel to Dubai in December last year. Mrs Robinson was photographed with Princess Latifa, whom she described as a “troubled” and “vulnerable” young woman who was getting medical attention from her family. Friends said that the princess looked sedated.
Mrs Robinson denied being friends with the ruling family. “I have never been friends, except with Princess Haya. One friend. Who is still my friend,” she told a conference yesterday. She said the issue was a private matter and declined to comment further.
David Haigh, a British lawyer representing Princess Latifa, said that Princess Haya’s escape to London presented Mrs Robinson with “a golden opportunity to redeem herself”.
“She simply needs to make a sincere and contrite statement saying she was duped by the wish to help an old friend sort out a family matter, that she acted under duress, and she regrets and disowns her visit to Dubai,” he said.
Radha Stirling, chief executive of the campaigning group Detained in Dubai, said: “We have been told by reliable sources that Princess Haya did not see Latifa since participating in the disastrous attempt with Mary Robinson to allay fears about Latifa’s wellbeing.
“I have no doubt that Princess Haya has every reason to fear the consequences if she were to be sent back to Dubai. She surely knows, as Latifa knew, that asylum provides her the only safe route out of the royal palace.”