LONDON – The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, hacked the phones of his ex-wife, Princess Haya, and his lawyers during the legal battle for custody of their two children, the report found on Wednesday. British High Court.
Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, has given his “express or implied authority” to hack the phones of the Princess and her lawyers using Pegasus spyware produced by NSO Group of Israel, the court said. The software is licensed exclusively to nation states for use by their security services.
NSO has been at the center of allegations that governments are abusing electronic surveillance technology to spy on political opponents, human rights activists and journalists.
The hack into Princess Haya’s phone was revealed in part thanks to the work of William Marczak, a member of the Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog at the University of Toronto. In addition, NSO adviser Cherie Blair, wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, contacted one of the Princess’ lawyers to inform him that the company suspected its software had been “abused. To hack his phone.
The case highlights the danger posed by unregulated companies selling surveillance technology to “some of the most repressive governments in the world,” Marzcak said.
Wednesday’s decision is the latest episode in the long custody battle between Sheikh Mohammed, 72, and his ex-wife. Princess Haya, 47, fled to Britain with her children in April 2019, saying she had become terrified of threats and intimidation from her husband.
Judge Andrew McFarlane has insisted throughout the case that Sheikh Mohammed must build trust with the court that he will not take unilateral steps to remove the children from their mother’s custody.
The judge had previously ruled that Sheikh Mohammed had waged a campaign of fear and intimidation against his ex-wife and ordered the kidnapping of two of his daughters.
Sheikh Mohammed said after the ruling that he continued to deny the allegations, which relate to “alleged state security operations”.