Mobile phone numbers belonging to Princess Haya bint al-Hussein of Dubai, her closest aides, advisers and friends, were being entered into a computer system operated by agents of the emirate of Dubai, one of the clients of spyware manufacturer NSO Group, The Guardian reported.
Closest aides and friends of emir’s ex-wife also began to appear on database as she moved to the UK.
As her plane touched down in April 2019, Princess Haya, who was accompanied by her two children, might have hoped she was beyond the reach of her ex-husband, the emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
The phone numbers of Haya, and eight of her close associates, appear in a dataset believed to indicate people of interest to a government client of NSO. That data has been obtained by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, and analysed by media organisations around the world, including the Guardian.
The numbers in the leaked records include those of Haya’s personal assistant, senior staff at her private security firm, and even one of the lawyers advising her in her custody dispute with Sheikh Mohammed.
The Guardian reported her relationship with Sheikh Mohammed, which had been cordial, began to deteriorate following a highly public and unsuccessful escape attempt by another of his children, Princess Latifa.
Haya, according to the judgment, began making inquiries about Latifa’s welfare, but subsequently began to experience a “progressively more hostile climate” from the sheikh and his advisers.
Trusted staff members were dismissed without her approval, and Haya and her representative were ejected from the ruler’s court – “a huge public slap in the face”, she said. She also discovered that Sheikh Mohammed had divorced her under sharia law on February 7, 2019, the anniversary of her father’s death, without telling her first, the report said.
A few weeks later, the judgment described how she claimed Sheikh Mohammed phoned her directly. “I have received bad news about you,” he said, making an ambiguous reference to her relationship with one of her bodyguards, “I am starting to doubt you.” Haya told the court that the call “terrified” her.
The report said anonymous, threatening notes, and even firearms, were left in her bedroom, she claims. On March 11, 2019, a helicopter landed outside her house, and a pilot emerged and informed her that he had come to transport a single passenger to Awir, a UAE desert prison. Haya attempted to defuse the situation by laughing it off as a joke, while one of her children clung to her leg in terror, and the pilot eventually left. (Sheikh Mohammed told the court the incident was “simply a mistake”.)
The report added that by this stage Haya had resolved that her position was “wholly unsafe and untenable”, and in April 2019, she arrived in the UK with her two children. She claims that the following month, Sheikh Mohammed told her directly: “You and the children will never be safe in England.”
The Guardian said shortly before Haya arrived in London, and continuing into at least the summer of 2019, the phone numbers of people around her began to appear on the database seen by the Pegasus project.
Among them were Martin Smith, the CEO of Quest, which had for several years provided Haya with her private security. The firm’s director of investigations was on the list, as was Shimon Cohen, a public relations expert and a communications adviser to Quest.
John Gosden, a horse racing trainer and a friend of Haya, confirmed a number in the dataset belonged to him, but declined to comment.
Also appearing in the list were phone numbers belonging to one of Haya’s aides, and even a lawyer at a London firm of solicitors advising Haya. The firm declined to comment, but asked the Pegasus project consortium not to identify the aide or the lawyer, the report said.