Newmarket stud owner authorised hacking of ex-wife's phone, judge rules
- Credit: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
The Newmarket racehorse stud owner and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, authorised the hacking of his ex-wife and her lawyers' phones, the High Court has found.
The 72-year-old founder of Godolphin Racing, whose international headquarters are based at the Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, gave his "express or implied authority" for the phones to be infiltrated with spyware during a legal battle over the couple's children.
The court found that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum authorised the use of Pegasus spyware during the ongoing legal case with his sixth wife - 47-year-old Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.
The vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who was previously found to have conducted a "campaign of fear and intimidation" against Princess Haya, also authorised the use of Pegasus on Princess Haya's solicitors, her personal assistant and two members of her security team, it was found.
The use of Pegasus, which is manufactured by the NSO Group and sold exclusively to nation states, came to light in August 2020 when Cherie Blair told Princess Haya's solicitor Baroness Shackleton that she may have been hacked, the court heard.
Mrs Blair, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair and then an NSO adviser, contacted the Conservative peer - who has previously represented the Prince of Wales and Sir Paul McCartney - after she was told that the software may have been "misused".
NSO told the court it could not disclose who its customers were, but confirmed that an unnamed customer's contract had been terminated within weeks of the discovery.
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Yesterday the High Court published a number of rulings in the ongoing case between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya, the half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, over their two children, Al Jalila, 13, and Zayed, nine.
Last year, Sir Andrew McFarlane - the most senior family judge in England and Wales - found that Sheikh Mohammed "ordered and orchestrated" the abduction and forced return to Dubai of two of his adult daughters: Sheikha Shamsa, 40, in August 2000 and her sister Sheikha Latifa, 35, in 2002 and again in 2018.
In the latest judgments, the High Court made more findings of fact against Sheikh Mohammed, including that the multimillion-pound spyware Pegasus had been used on his estranged wife's phone with his "express or implied authority".
Sir Andrew ruled that it was more likely than not that the at least attempted surveillance of six phones "was carried out by servants or agents of the father, the Emirate of Dubai or the UAE and that the surveillance occurred with the express or implied authority of the father".
He concluded: "The father, who is the head of government of the UAE, is prepared to use the arm of the state to achieve what he regards as right.
"He has harassed and intimidated the mother both before her departure to England and since.
"He is prepared to countenance those acting on his behalf doing so unlawfully in the UK."