Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum tried to buy one of the most expensive properties for sale in Britain which overlooked his ex-wife’s rural estate, in a “deliberate” act that was “intimidating”, a senior British judge has ruled.
Agents acting for Mohammed were weeks away from exchanging contracts on the 30 million pound ($41 million) Parkwood estate when the sheikh’s team decided to pull out of the deal.
His ex-wife, Jordanian Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, had raised the matter at the High Court in London as part of a legal battle, according to a published judgment.
Judge Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division in England and Wales, who has previously ruled that the Gulf ruler had waged a threatening campaign against Haya since she fled to England in 2019, said she justifiably regarded the property move as frightening.
“There can be no doubt that this deliberate behaviour, both in negotiating a purchase and then withholding information about it, by those who are acting for the benefit of the Dubai ruling family, will have had the effect of intimidating this mother to a very marked degree,” he said in a ruling published on Wednesday.
Haya said she feared the plans would allow the sheikh – who the judge has also ruled hacked her phone and those of her lawyers – to spy on her or possibly try to abduct their two children.
“It feels like I am being stalked … the prospect of Sheikh Mohammed, or those on his behalf buying the properties around Castlewood is terrifying and utterly wearing,” she said in a written statement to the court.
Haya’s lawyers said they first became aware of the sheikh’s plans in late 2019, and unsuccessfully sought confirmation from his legal team that he would not to buy any properties near her Castlewood home in Berkshire, close to Windsor Great Park where Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Andrew’s home is located.
In late 2020, Haya received information that a trust connected to Mohammed was trying to buy the 72-acre Parkwood estate immediately abutting Castlewood, which had been left to her by her father, the late King Hussein of Jordan.
After the sheikh’s lawyers failed to reply to requests from Haya’s legal team about the intended purchase, in November 2020 they responded to a direct request from the High Court to confirm the trust was in the process of buying Parkwood and it might well take place in the next few weeks.
The same month, those acting for the sheikh confirmed they would not go ahead with the purchase of the estate, which McFarlane said “comprises, according to press reports, the most expensive development land currently on the market”.
“Quite simply, if it were not for the mother’s persistence and my Lord’s assistance in demanding an answer, the purchase of a property sitting right on top of the mother would have gone ahead,” Haya’s lawyer Charles Geekie said. “It is an absolute game changer when the threat is on your doorstep.”
Mohammed’s lawyer told the court that the trust behind the property dealings regularly sought commercial opportunities in the area.
The following month, the judge agreed to extend a “non-molestation order” against Mohammed.
This included a 100-metre exclusion zone around Castlewood for the father or those acting for him, a no-fly zone to stop aircraft or drones flying between the ground and 1,000ft above her estate, and a wider area in which he could not buy or rent any property.