A record-breaking divorce settlement has been achieved by Dubai’s ruler who has been ordered to pay his former wife and two children up to £554m in what is believed to be the biggest divorce settlement awarded by an English court.
The legal fees for the massive settlement are believe to be around £150m (almost USD$200m). The case involved evidence of phone hacking
The Sheikh’s lawyer was top English barrister Fiona Shackleton, the so-called ‘Steel Magnolia’ regarded as one of the country’s leading divorce lawyers.
The case involved 11 court judgments and hundreds of other legal documents that disclosed spying, hacking that was reportedly ‘state sponsored’ and a fearful wife who fought a bitter battle with her husband in the monumental case.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum must pay a lump sum of £251.5m to Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan within three months and also make periodic payments of £5.6m a year for the benefit of each of their two children, secured by a £290m bank guarantee.
“The surveillance occurred with the express or implied authority of the father,” wrote the judge Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family court, in one of the Court rulings, although the conclusion was resisted repeatedly by Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers, trying to argue the court had no right to find against a foreign ruler, or that it could not prove the hacking had taken place.
The sheikh’s lawyers were defeated, until the final permissions to appeal again to the supreme court were refused.
The massive settlement, believed to be the highest awarded by a UK court, was disclosed in a High Court judgment published this week. It also provides for Sheikh Mohammed to pay around £11m a year for Princess Haya and their children’s security costs and a £3m education fund for the children.
The settlement beats the previous record of around £450m awarded to Tatiana Akhmedov in 2016 following her divorce from Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov.
In private hearings before the UK court and heard earlier this year, it was disclosed that Princess Haya has spent more than £70m on legal fees across nearly three years of litigation, with Sheikh Mohammed’s costs thought to be significantly more – taking the total legal bill to at least £150m.
Harriet Errington, partner at private wealth firm Boodle Hatfield, said the settlement ‘would not have been possible in many jurisdictions’, with London ‘known internationally as the preferred venue for high-value divorces’.
Sarah Ingram, partner at national firm Winckworth Sherwood, said the case ‘demonstrates why London remains such an attractive jurisdiction for international divorces, particularly for the financially weaker party seeking their equal share’.
In a previous stage of the case, the High Court found that Sheikh Mohammed’s ‘servants or agents’ used spyware to hack the mobile phones of Princess Haya and her solicitors Baroness Shackleton and Nicholas Manners, from London firm Payne Hicks Beach, as well as her personal assistant and security staff.
One of her solicitors Ben Parry-Smith revealed last month that her legal team feared what he described as an ‘international shitshow’ as they prepared to make the ‘really serious’ allegations.
The High Court also previously found that Sheikh Mohammed had ‘ordered and orchestrated’ the abduction and forced return of his daughters Shamsa and Latifa to Dubai in 2000 and 2018 respectively.