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The ruler of Dubai authorised the hacking of his former wife and her lawyers' phones with multimillion-pound spyware during a legal battle over their two children, the British High Court has found.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 72, gave his "express or implied authority" for the phone of his sixth wife Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 47, to be infiltrated with Pegasus spyware during the ongoing legal case, the court ruled on Wednesday.
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.
On Wednesday, 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.
Sir Andrew McFarlane - the most senior family judge in England and Wales - 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 called the hacking findings a "total abuse of trust and indeed an abuse of power to a significant extent".
Princess Haya originally fled the UAE for England in early 2019 with her two children, claiming she was "terrified" of her husband.