The wife of the billionaire ruler of Dubai is apparently in hiding in London after fleeing the Gulf nation.
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, who is Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s sixth wife, is said to be in fear of her life after becoming at least the third woman in the royal family to try to escape oil-rich Dubai.
She fled with the couple’s two children, aged seven and 11, some months ago.
There has been no official statement from Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. But Sheikh Mohammed, 69 and one of the world’s richest men, has posted a furious poem on Instagram accusing an unidentified woman of “treachery and betrayal”.
The sheikh, who owns the Godolphin thoroughbred racing stables, is well known internationally and has often been seen in conversation with the Queen at Ascot.
He reportedly has 23 children with his six wives. Jordanian-born and British-educated Princess Haya, 45, is his most junior wife.
She initially fled to Germany early in 2019 but is now said to be living in a £85 million ($107 million) townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens, in central London. She wants asylum – and a divorce.
According to the BBC, sources close to Princess Haya say she ran away because she had learned disturbing facts behind the mysterious return to Dubai last year of Sheikha Latifa, one of the ruler’s daughters.
Latifa fled the UAE by sea just over a year ago, with the help of a Frenchman. Her boat was intercepted by armed men off the coast of India and she was returned to Dubai.
In a YouTube video, Latifa said she also tried to run away in 2002, before being brought back and imprisoned for three years.
Latifa also said her sister, Shamsa Al Maktoum, had escaped in 2000 but was also brought back to Dubai and imprisoned.
Dubai authorities, however, said Latifa had been “vulnerable to exploitation” and was “now safe in Dubai”. Human rights advocates maintain she was forcibly abducted and returned.
Since then Princess Haya has been criticised for her role in helping to whitewash Latifa’s failed escape attempt. Her friend, former Irish president Mary Robinson, made a controversial visit to Dubai to be photographed with Latifa and testify to her wellbeing – the only time Latifa has been seen in public since she was returned to the UAE.
The BBC says, however, that Princess Haya learned new facts about Latifa’s attempted escape and came under increasing hostility and pressure from members of her husband’s extended family.
A source close to her told the British broadcaster she fears she might now be abducted herself and “rendered” back to Dubai. The UAE embassy in London has declined to comment on what it says is a personal matter between two individuals.
Princess Haya is thought likely to want to stay in Britain. But this could become a diplomatic headache for Britain if the sheikh demands her return.
The issue is also awkward for Jordan because the princess is the half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah. Nearly 250,000 Jordanians work in the UAE.