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King Fahd, one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, is facing an embarrassing public showdown in a British court later this year with a woman who claims to be his estranged wife.

The ailing King Fahd, one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, is facing an embarrassing public showdown in a British court later this year with a woman who claims to be his estranged wife.

The 83-year-old ruler of Saudi Arabia is being sued by Janan Harb for a share of his $22bn (£12.2bn) fortune over his alleged failure to provide adequately for her. Mrs Harb, 57, who was born in Jordan and lives in Kensington, west London, was described by friends as “incredibly strong-willed and determined”.

Her action, if successful, could prove to be the most lucrative maintenance settlement awarded by a British court. Mrs Harb is claiming the King “wilfully neglected” to maintain her under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. She says she is one of the King’s three wives. A friend said she still loved the King and blamed his advisers for her predicament. “What she is doing is without precedence in the Middle East, for the wife of a ruler to sue him for maintenance, but she wants to see justice done,” the friend said.

King Fahd is recovering in hospital in Saudi Arabia after being admitted with pneumonia, fever and respiratory complications in May. The Saudi interior ministry said yesterday that his health was steadily improving. It was the first official report on his condition for more than a week.

King Fahd ascended to the Saudi throne in June 1982, when the kingdom was enjoying the peak of the petrodollar boom. He became custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, and assumed control of a vast personal fortune. As well as a palace in Saudi Arabia, he owns a 100-room property in Marbella, southern Spain, called the Mar Mar Palace, modelled on the White House.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

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