Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed ordered phones of ex-wife and lawyers to be hacked, UK court says By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the spouse of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, arrives on the Excessive Courtroom in London, Britain February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls


By Michael Holden and Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered the telephones of his ex-wife and her attorneys to be hacked as a part of a “sustained marketing campaign of intimidation and menace” through the custody battle over their kids, England’s Excessive Courtroom has dominated.

Mohammed used the subtle “Pegasus” software program, developed by Israeli agency NSO for states to counter nationwide safety dangers, to hack the telephones of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, and a few of these carefully related to her, in line with the rulings.

These working for him additionally tried to purchase a mansion subsequent door to Haya’s property close to the British capital, intimidatory motion the courtroom dominated that left her feeling hunted, unsafe and like she “can’t breathe anymore”.

The newest rulings come 19 months after the courtroom concluded that Mohammed had kidnapped two of his daughters, mistreated them and held them towards their will.

“The findings signify a complete abuse of belief, and certainly an abuse of energy to a major extent,” Decide Andrew McFarlane, President of the Household Division in England and Wales, mentioned in his ruling.

The sheikh had denied the allegations of hacking and his attorneys had argued different international locations within the Center East may have been guilty.

“The daddy has no information of any such exercise happening,” David Pannick, his lawyer, informed the courtroom. “He has not authorised it or instructed, inspired or in any manner urged another particular person ought to use NSO or any software program on this manner.”

Mohammed, 72, and Haya, 47, have been concerned in a protracted, bitter and costly custody battle since she fled to Britain with their two kids, Jalila, 13, and Zayed, 9. She mentioned she feared for her security amid suspicions that she had had an affair with considered one of her British bodyguards.

Amongst these focused by the hacking was Haya’s lawyer Fiona Shackleton, a member of Britain’s Home of Lords who represented British heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in his divorce from his late first spouse Princess Diana.

The exercise got here to gentle in August final 12 months after Shackleton was urgently tipped off by Cherie Blair, the spouse of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that she and Haya had been hacked, the courtroom was informed.

Blair can be a distinguished lawyer who labored as an exterior adviser for NSO.

On the identical time a cyber knowledgeable from the College of Toronto’s web watchdog Citizen Lab, which researches digital surveillance, additionally alerted Haya’s attorneys after monitoring the hacking, the courtroom heard.

As soon as the hacking was uncovered, NSO cancelled its contract with the UAE, Haya’s attorneys mentioned. The Israeli agency mentioned it couldn’t instantly touch upon the case, however mentioned it took motion if it acquired proof of misuse of Pegasus.

Shackleton and Blair declined to remark.

Mohammed is thought to be the visionary pressure behind Dubai’s ascent into a world industrial hub. He has sought to burnish the Gulf metropolis’s status on points reminiscent of human rights and equality.

    There isn’t a indication that final 12 months’s ruling brought on any main harm to him personally or to the UAE. Final month Britain and the UAE introduced a “new, formidable Partnership for the Future” involving billions of {dollars} in commerce and funding.


Reporting restrictions on McFarlane’s findings after a 12 months of hearings have been lifted on Wednesday.

“I don’t really feel that I can transfer freely ahead as issues stand now, whereas I’m and really feel hunted on a regular basis, and I’m compelled to look over my shoulder at each second of the day,” the British-educated princess mentioned in a single witness assertion.

The authorized prices of the case have run into tens of millions of kilos, with the case involving a few of Britain’s most distinguished attorneys. The prices of 1 enchantment alone was cited by the courtroom as costing 2.5 million kilos.

The sheikh, who’s vice chairman and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, initially sought to have the youngsters introduced again to Dubai, however has since suffered repeated defeats within the English courts.

In a judgment launched on Wednesday, McFarlane dominated that the youngsters ought to reside with their mom.

In a ruling printed final March, the choose concluded that Mohammed had subjected Haya to a marketing campaign of intimidation which made her worry for her life.

He concluded the sheikh had organized for his daughter Shamsa, then aged 18, to be kidnapped in 2000 off the streets of Cambridge in central England and flown again to Dubai.

The choose additionally discovered it was proved that Mohammed had organized for Shamsa’s youthful sister Latifa to be snatched from a ship in worldwide waters off India by Indian forces in 2018 and returned to the emirate.

Whereas his findings don’t quantity to a willpower of felony guilt, they imply McFarlane is glad the allegations are confirmed on the stability of chances and that this will impression preparations for contact together with his kids sooner or later.

“Because the earlier findings of truth set up, the daddy, who’s the top of presidency of the UAE, is ready to make use of the arm of the state to attain what he regards as proper,” he mentioned.

“He has harassed and intimidated the mom each earlier than her departure to England and since. He’s ready to countenance these appearing on his behalf doing so unlawfully inside the UK.”


Haya’s attorneys informed the courtroom that the British International Workplace had been made conscious of the hacking allegations, and police had expressed a need to interview Haya and her attorneys as victims. Reuters was unable to determine if this befell.

There was no rapid remark from the international ministry or the police.

It isn’t the primary time the UAE’s cyber actions have come beneath scrutiny. Final month, three former U.S. intelligence operatives, who labored as UAE cyber spies, admitted to violating U.S. hacking legal guidelines to spy on human rights activists, journalists and rival governments.

Through the London hearings, Mohammed’s excessive powered workforce of attorneys battled for months to forestall the courtroom from contemplating the hacking allegations, by saying it didn’t have the jurisdiction and that he had immunity, after which by attempting to steer the choose that the sheikh was not accountable.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been amongst a number of different international locations that would have been behind it, his authorized workforce mentioned.

McFarlane dismissed these ideas, saying the thought it could possibly be Jordan was “so insubstantial as to be with out consequence.”

As an alternative of displaying any concern for the security of the mom of his kids, “he has marshalled a formidable forensic workforce to problem the findings sought by the mom and to struggle the case towards her on each level.”

McFarlane concluded, and the Courtroom of Attraction agreed, that the sheikh had authorised the hacking of six telephones which befell between July and August 2020 when a vulnerability in Apple (NASDAQ:)’s iPhone programs was exploited.

Skilled cyber evaluation revealed that on one event 265 megabytes of knowledge was uploaded from Haya’s telephone, the equal of 24 hours of voice recording or 500 images.

Precisely how a lot knowledge and what info was taken from her and the opposite telephones has not been decided.

Haya and Mohammed have been fixtures in British excessive society for many years and each are on pleasant phrases with members of the British royal household together with Queen Elizabeth.

The sheikh, by way of the Godolphin steady which he based, is a serious participant and investor within the British horse racing business. His horse Adayar gained this 12 months’s well-known Epsom Derby flat race.

McFarlane additionally prolonged the provisions of a earlier non-molestation order, which banned the sheikh from shopping for any land or property close to her property in rural Berkshire, west of London, after his brokers tried to purchase an adjoining 30 million pound mansion which missed her dwelling.

“It feels just like the partitions are closing in on me, that I can’t defend the youngsters and that we aren’t protected wherever,” Haya informed McFarlane in an announcement. “I really feel like I can’t breathe anymore; it seems like being suffocated.”

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