London (Web Desk): England’s High Court has ruled that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered the phones of his ex-wife and her lawyers to be hacked as part of a “sustained campaign of intimidation and threat” during the custody battle over their children.
Mohammed used the sophisticated “Pegasus” software, developed by Israeli firm NSO for states to counter national security risks, to hack the phones of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, and some of those closely connected to her, according to the rulings.
The latest rulings come 19 months after the court concluded that Mohammed had abducted two of his daughters, mistreated them and held them against their will.
“The findings represent a total abuse of trust, and indeed an abuse of power to a significant extent,” Judge Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division in England and Wales, said in his ruling.
The sheikh rejected the court’s conclusions, saying they were based on an incomplete picture.
“I have always denied the allegations made against me and I continue to do so,” he said in a statement.
“In addition, the findings were based on evidence that was not disclosed to me or my advisers. I therefore maintain that they were made in a manner which was unfair.”
Mohammed, 72, and Haya, 47, have been involved in a long, bitter and expensive custody battle since she fled to Britain with their two children, Jalila, 13, and Zayed, 9. She said she feared for her safety amid suspicions that she had had an affair with one of her British bodyguards.
Among those targeted by the hacking was Haya’s lawyer Fiona Shackleton, a member of Britain’s House of Lords who represented British heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in his divorce from his late first wife Princess Diana.
The activity came to light in August last year after Shackleton was urgently tipped off by Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that she and Haya had been hacked, the court was informed.