Dubai's sheikh was allegedly lining up his 11-year-old daughter to marry Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is 22 years her senior, a UK court heard yesterday.
Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum reportedly discussed the agreement in February 2019 which would have seen his daughter Princess Jalila – aged 11 – married to Bin Salman. The case was brought to light by the girl's mother, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, in a British court yesterday, as part of the marital feud between her and Al Maktoum. Princess Haya fled the UAE last year and filed for a divorce in the UK; she said the planned nuptials were a key reason why she ran away.
The billionaire ruler of Dubai has previously been accused of kidnapping his daughters; in 2000, Sheikha Shamsa Al-Maktoum tried to escape from her father's $130 million estate in Surrey, UK, when she was 18-years-old. Shamsa was found in nearby Cambridge and forcibly returned to Dubai where no news has since been heard about her and where she is said to have been imprisoned and beaten.
Years later, in 2018, her sister Latifa tried to escape, crossing the border into Oman and then travelling 40 kilometres on a rubber boat, before meeting a former French Navy officer named Jean-Pierre Herve Jaubert who was waiting for her on his yacht. They sailed to Goa in India, where an Indian-UAE commando unit intercepted the yacht, abducted Latifa and imprisoned the crew.
The court also heard of Princess Haya's alleged extra-marital affair with her personal bodyguard – a former British soldier named Russell Flowers – with whom she fled. Throughout their two-year affair she allegedly showered him with gifts and even a home in the English county of Suffolk where he stayed after their affair was revealed. He is now said to be in hiding, however, fearing for his life.
Last week the court ruled against Al-Maktoum's bid to keep proceedings private.
He has, however, strongly denied Haya's claims, particularly regarding the alleged forced marriage. According to his QC Alex Verdan: "None of his children have forced marriages or were betrothed at this age. There has never been such a plan, a person to whom Jalila is betrothed."
"There have been no forced marriages. That is not what this father does with his daughters – there are about 13 of them – at this age."
If Haya's claim of the planned arranged marriage is true and if it went ahead, Princess Jalila would have been the second wife of the 34-year-old Saudi crown prince, who has been known for being behind the assassination, imprisonment and brutal crackdown on his critics both at home and abroad.