Dubai ruler hacked the phones of his ex-wife and lawyers, according to court rules | New
The High Court ruled that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, gave express or implied authority to hack his ex-wife’s phone and the phones of two of his lawyers.
In a judgment delivered yesterday, Sir Andrew Macfarlane, president of the family division, concluded that surveillance was carried out by “servants or agents” of Sheikh Mohammed of the phone of Princess Haya of Jordan. Lawyers, Baroness Fiona Shackleton QC and Nicholas Manners of London law firm Payne Hicks Beach, were also targeted.
The ruling sought to determine factual allegations made during ongoing proceedings regarding the welfare of the couple’s two children. This process will ultimately settle the contact they need to have with their father.
Macfarlane said it was “obvious” that Sheikh Mohammed, above anyone else in the world, was the likely perpetrator of the hack.
“No other potential perpetrator, being a person or government with access to the Pegasus software, can come close to the father in terms of probability and none have been advanced other than by transient and changing clues or suggestions.”
The judge added: “The father, who is the head of government of the UAE, is ready to use the arm of the state to achieve what he considers right.
“He harassed and intimidated the mother before she left for England and since. He is prepared to allow those who act on his behalf to do so illegally in the UK.
The court heard that Lady Shackleton first learned of a possible phone hack in August 2020 from two sources, one of which was a call from Cherie Blair QC. A subsequent investigation by a computer scientist named Dr Marczak produced a 42-page witness statement in which he concluded “with great confidence” that the phones of the mother and two lawyers had been hacked by a single operator. Assuming that such an operator would be a nation-state, he concluded with “medium confidence” that the government in question was that of the United Arab Emirates.
In their skeletal argument, Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers argued that the mother had not established that there had been cell phone surveillance, that such surveillance was permitted in the United Arab Emirates or Dubai, or that the alleged surveillance had taken place with its express or implied authority.
Macfarlane allowed the admission of Dr Marczak’s testimony, although he was not considered an independent expert in court, having offered to offer assistance to the mother and her team.
The judge said Dr Marczak was an impressive witness who presented a detailed and logical account supported by the basic data he found, which led to the conclusion that there was strong evidence that the three main phones had been hacked with Pegasus software, along with three other phones. He found that all six phones had been infiltrated by surveillance software and that attempt was successful as far as the mother was concerned, with 265MB of data extracted from her device.