July 29, 2019, Herald Sun
He may have finally won the Melbourne Cup, but now his wife is giving Sheik Mohammed an even bigger battle
He has won a Melbourne Cup after 30 years of failed attempts, received a trophy from the Queen just a month ago and is one of the world’s richest men.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 69, the ruler of Dubai, wields enormous power.
But this week, his power and influence will mean little as he heads to court in London to deal with a custody battle over two of his children.
One of his wives, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 45, has escaped to London via Germany to get away from him.
She has applied to the London High Court to fight for custody of her children, aged 11 and seven, in a major embarrassment for Sheik Mohammed.
Princess Haya’s absence was noted at one of the feature days of the Royal Ascot races, which he attended in June.
She was reportedly living in a $152 million home a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace, where Prince William, Kate and their three children live.
The London High Court, in an unusual move, released a statement to the Herald Sun about this week’s court proceedings.
The court confirmed the case was only about custody of the children, not cash, following intense interest in the matter.
So it appears financial payments have been made to settle a divorce, which could top $800 million, according to The Times newspaper.
The matter has become a major embarrassment for the Dubai powerbroker.
“These proceedings are concerned with the welfare of the two children of their marriage and do not concern divorce or finances,” the court statement said.
“The hearing on 30 and 31 July will be a case-management hearing to deal with issues of how to proceed to a final hearing to determine the welfare issues.”
The court had indicated that the proceedings would be kept secret unless that was challenged by news organisations, which is expected.
Princess Haya’s escape is the latest attempt by a family member to get away from Sheik Mohammed.
His daughter Princess Latifa, 33, tried to leave Dubai; she even managed to get on a boat out of the country.
But her freedom was short lived.
According to campaigners for her release, helicopters and aircraft were sent to capture her in the middle of the night as she tried to flee on a yacht that was sailing in Indian waters in February last year.
She was returned to Dubai and has been held against her will, according to supporters, since March last year.
Princess Haya’s defection will be a test of the Sheik’s power — he is also prime minister and vice—president of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member.
Some hope that the spotlight on Princess Haya’s Sheik case will help Princess Latifa and others.
Princess Haya is one of the Sheik’s six wives, but he cracked down on her because she had become too close to one of the family’s bodyguards who travelled with them around the world.
Sheik Mohammed posted a poem online saying: “You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust and your game has been revealed.”
Princess Haya, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, has close links with the UK.
She was educated at Oxford University and, a keen horsewoman, she has been pictured with the Queen.
It has been reported that she had been planning to flee for months and had stashed away $55 million to ensure she would be able to set up a new life.
Radha Stirling, of the campaign group Detained in Dubai, has previously said: “I have no doubt that Princess Haya has every reason to fear the consequences if she was sent back to Dubai.”
“She surely knows, as Latifa knew, that asylum provides her the only safe route out of the royal palace.”
The court proceedings have the chance to create a diplomatic headache for the UK Government and the Queen.
So far it appears that Sheik Mohammed has given up on reconnecting with his youngest wife.
The test will be in the details of any custody proceedings, particularly given Princess Haya’s genuine fears that she would be detained if she returned to Dubai.
It will be up to the courts to try to find a settlement that prevents the children from being taken, and kept, in the Middle Eastern state.
Princess Haya’s cash stash appears to be have been a wise precaution.
She has hired the same lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who Prince Charles used when he split from Princess Diana, and Paul McCartney used when he divorced Heather Mills.
The Duke of Cornwall may have even provided the lawyers phone number, as he is well known to be a friend of Princess Haya.
The court battles and unravelling of the sheik’s power are a long way from the success he enjoyed at last year’s Melbourne Cup, when his horse Cross Counter was first past the post.
The victory was three decades in the making from his Godolphin stables, which have had a stranglehold on some of the world’s leading Group 1 races.
The determination, single-mindedness and wads of cash were enough to secure Australia ‘s richest race.
Princess Haya, with her international connections, appears to share the same level of determination to find a way out from under his grip.