The High Court has found that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, interfered with British justice by ordering the hacking of the phone of his ex-wife, Princess Haya of Jordan.
The phones of her solicitors, Baroness Fiona Shackleton QC and Nick Manners, were also targeted during their divorce custody case, according to the court.
Princess Haya said the discovery had made her feel “hunted and haunted”.
Sheikh Mohammed denied any knowledge of the hacking.
He said the court’s findings were based on evidence that was not disclosed to him, and that they were “made in a manner which was unfair”.
The judgments are a blow to the sheikh and a further revelation as to his treatment of female members of his family.
The High Court judgments, which were published on Wednesday afternoon, referred to the hacking as “serial breaches of (UK) domestic criminal law”, “in violation of fundamental common law and ECHR rights”, “interference with the process of this court and the mother’s access to justice” and “abuse of power” by a head of government.
The president of the Family Division of the High Court found that “the mobile phones of the mother (Princess Haya), two of her solicitors, her personal assistant and two members of her security staff had been the subject of either successful or attempted infiltration by surveillance software. The software used is called Pegasus software and was that of an Israeli company, the NSO Group.”
The court concluded that the surveillance was carried out “by servants or agents of the father (Sheikh Mohammed), the Emirate of Dubai or the [United Arab Emirates] and that the surveillance occurred with the express or implied authority of the father”.
Difficult to detect
The extent of the hack is shocking in what data it gave the hackers access to
NSO’s Pegasus software, often referred to as “spyware”, is able to track the location of the individual using the phone, read their SMS messages, emails and messages in other apps, as well as eavesdrop on their phone calls and access their contact list, passwords, calendar dates and photographs. In other words, it gives the hacker complete access to all the data they want to see in their target’s phone.
It also allows the hacker to activate the target’s phone without their knowledge, recording their activity and even taking photographs and screenshots