A British woman who was secretly married to the King of Saudi Arabia in the 1960’s is taking his son, Prince Abdul Aziz, to court over money and property she believes to be rightfully hers.
Mrs Harb says she was only 19 when she married King Fahd in a secret ceremony in 1968. She lived in Saudi Arabia inside the palace walls for two years before being ordered to leave the country by her husband’s brother because the Saudi Royal Family disapproved of the marriage.
Mrs Harb says that at some point before 1970 King Fahd promised to provide for her financially for the rest of her life and that he did provide for her for years after the agreement was made. However, after the King suffered a stroke in 1995, the financial support stopped. The King died on 1st August 2005, and Mrs Harb is now pursuing his son Prince Abdul Aziz for the money and property his father promised her.
Mrs Harb alleges that at a meeting in London in 2003 Prince Abdul Aziz told her he was prepared to honour the terms of his father’s promise to provide for her financially. In particular, Prince Abdul Aziz offered to pay her a lump sum of £12 million and to transfer to her the title to two valuable properties in Central London.
Mrs Harb says she has never received the money or property that was promised to her. When she attempted to take Prince Abdul Aziz to court over his breach of the agreement, he responded by claiming that the courts of England and Wales did not have the jurisdiction to try the claim against him on the grounds that the claim was barred by the defence of State Immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978. In effect, the Prince was claiming that because his father was once an acting sovereign, the law of State Immunity should be extended to him.
However, Mrs Justice Rose ruled in favour of Ms Harb, saying that the Prince could not rely on the defence of State Immunity to defeat the claim. The judge emphasised in her judgement that State Immunity cannot be used as a defence if the sovereign in question is out of office for whatever reason, and that this includes death.
Mrs Harb’s solicitor, Mandeep Kaur Virdee, said outside the High Court: ‘We are delighted with the outcome of this judgment. The law surrounding this area has already established, confirming that personal immunity ceases when a head of state is no longer in office for any reason.
‘The prince’s application sought to extend the personal immunity privilege by suggesting that if a sovereign dies whilst still an acting monarch, the deceased and their agents could continue to enjoy the privilege of personal immunity
‘This judgment confirms that once a sovereign is out of office for whatever reason, including death, personal immunity does not survive.’