Money, it seems, really can’t buy love. But in the case of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and his sixth wife, Princess Haya, it can sure buy a lot of other stuff, including the silence of her secret lover.
In what is being dubbed as the biggest divorce settlement in U.K. history, the newly divorced sheikh was ordered to pay some $734 million to his estranged wife in a case that has lifted the veil on what the super-rich do in their spare time.
Testimony, which can only now be reported under British court rules, suggests that Princess Haya, 47, who happens to be the sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, “borrowed” a cool $7.5 million from her then 10-year-old daughter’s trust account to pay off her bodyguard, a former British soldier, with whom she was conducting an illicit affair. The princess’ security team had apparently blackmailed her to keep the tryst under wraps. “I was scared and that was the money available in that account,” the princess told the court, according to British press accounts published Tuesday.
The sheikh, 72, divorced his youngest wife when he discovered the affair, which led to the court proceedings. Calling their life “truly opulent” and remarking on the “unprecedented standard of living enjoyed by these parties,” the presiding judge ordered the wealthy ruler to pay the princess millions to continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which she and her children have become accustomed.
A large part of the record settlement is for security for the princess and her children—to protect them from the sheikh, who apparently considered her infidelity a capital offense. “Most importantly in this regard, and absolutely uniquely, the main threat they face is from HH himself not from outside sources,” the judge said, referring to the sheikh as His Highness. “This is compounded by the full weight of the state that he has available to him as seen by his ability to make use of the Pegasus software, which is only available to governments.” The sheikh used the software to hack the phones of the princess and her lawyers.
The judge also scolded the blackmailers, who have not yet been charged with any crime, saying, “This was clearly a most unsatisfactory episode. I realize I have not heard from the alleged blackmailers, but nobody should be blackmailed and HRH must have been very frightened at this point.”
The couple separated in 2019 when the sheikh discovered his wife’s infidelity. Haya took the kids, now age 14 and 9, to the U.K. While married, the ruler provided the princess with an annual $110 million budget for household expenses and nearly $12 million in allowance for each of the children. Haya originally asked for nearly $2 billion in maintenance.
The court saw holiday snapshots of the family on their $400 million super yacht, in addition to vacation pictures from their collection of villas and estates as well as shots of their custom-made Boeing 747 and matching helicopters, all staffed by around 80 servants. The court was also told how one summer, the family of four spent more than $2 million—on strawberries.
While the high-dollar payout would surely have satisfied most divorcées—especially considering the circumstances of her infidelity—Haya was said to be disappointed not to have her haute couture wardrobe, valued at about $110 million, or her $26 million jewelry collection returned to her from Dubai. The court was shown a photo of her walk-in jewelry vault, which she said had been stripped of the good stuff, leaving around $25,000 in “costume jewelry” that the judge did offer to order returned. According to press reports, he asked her if there would be “any point” to do so, to which she said, simply, “no.”
She will also not get her stable of racehorses, but instead was awarded some $6.6 million to “buy a few reasonable horses and run them for several years.”
Her lawyers had insisted that travel funds be allocated for the children, which the court awarded to the tune of $7 million a year, plus an additional $1.3 million for unspecified “leisure” activities. An additional $250,000 was earmarked for animals, including horses and ponies, and $130,000 for the children’s private tutors.
A request for the couple’s son Zayed, age 9, for money to purchase three new automobiles—in addition to the one he already owns—was denied, with the judge telling the princess, “I do consider it an artificial edifice to talk of children of the ages of these children owning motor vehicles. Moreover, Zayed’s precious motor vehicle has now finally been returned to him.”
Admitting that the circumstances of the divorce were highly unusual, the judge applauded the princess for wanting her children to have a “normal life,” adding that in his judgment he did his best “to a conclusion as to what is reasonable while remembering that the exceptional wealth and remarkable standard of living enjoyed by these children during the marriage takes this case entirely out of the ordinary.”