The billionaire ruler of Dubai is battling his wife for custody of their two children in a London court, in what is set to be one of the most expensive and fiercely contested such cases in UK history.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has made an application to divorce his wife of 15 years, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, in the Family Court Division of the High Court, which will be heard by Sir Andrew McFarlane, its president, on July 30.
Both sides have appointed some of Britain's best-known lawyers.
Princess Haya, 45, the sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah and the most glamorous and visible of the sheikh’s six wives, reportedly left the royal palace in Dubai last month for Germany.
She then travelled on to the UK, where she is now believed to be staying in the Emirati royal family’s £85 million ($107 million) house in Kensington Palace Gardens.
She was conspicuously absent from Royal Ascot this year, despite being an Olympic rider and a regular at races. Sheikh Mohammed, 69, one of the world’s wealthiest men, is the founder and owner of Godolphin horse racing stables.
The Telegraph understands that the princess, who spent much of her childhood in the UK before studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University, has not yet requested Government assistance or asylum through official channels though is hoping to remain in the country.
The case will be a diplomatic headache for the UK, which has strong trading and defence ties with the UAE.
It is not known exactly why the princess left Dubai, with the only clue a poem posted by Sheikh Mohammed, 69, on Instagram accusing an unidentified woman of "treachery and betrayal".
"You no longer have a place within me, go to who has kept you occupied," he wrote, ending with "I do not care whether you live or die".
She is listed on Companies House as the main shareholder of a business named Candlelight Services, which was incorporated in London in November last year.
Princess Haya is the third close relative of Sheikh Mohammed’s to leave Dubai in recent years. His daughters from another marriage, Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum and Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, attempted to escape before being intercepted by Emirati forces on their father’s order.
Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s 23 children by different wives, fled the United Arab Emirates by yacht in February 2018. She made a video at the time claiming had being held as a virtual prisoner in the palace.
Radha Sterling, CEO of campaign group Detained in Dubai, who has testified as an expert witness in several high-profile cases defending against extradition to the UAE, said yesterday: “The UAE is a male-dominated society, and Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wields absolute power over Dubai.
"The UK courts should bear this in mind when determining Sheikh Mohammed’s suit for custody in this case,” she said.