The son of an Arab monarch took the King of Pop to court Monday, charging that Michael Jackson took $7 million as an advance on an album and an autobiography that he never produced.
Lawyers for Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain say the money was given to Jackson as an advance on the book and joint recording project with the sheikh, who is an amateur songwriter. Jackson claims the money was a gift.
Jackson and Al Khalifa were not at London’s Royal Courts of Justice as the trial opened. Jackson’s lawyers said he would seek permission to testify by a videolink from the United States.
Bankim Thanki, a lawyer for Al Khalifa, said the royal first spoke to Jackson by telephone while the singer was on trial in California on charges of child molestation.
Al Khalifa wanted to work with Jackson on rebuilding his career, Thanki said. To that end, the sheikh spent millions paying Jackson’s legal feels, moving him to Bahrain and supporting Jackson, his family and entourage.
The expenses included $350,000 for a European vacation for Jackson and his associates, Thanki said.
“The cost even included the expenses of bringing out Mr. Jackson’s hairdresser,” Thanki said. “It’s not a conventional commercial dispute,” said .
The lawyer said Jackson and the sheikh became close and at one time both were living in a palace in Abu Dhabi owned by Al Khalifa’s father, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the king of the oil-rich country. The singer stayed nearly a full year in Bahrain as a guest of the son, who serves as the governor of the country’s Southern Province.
Thanki acknowledged that Al Khalifa gave some gifts to Jackson but said that most of what Jackson received was part of a business deal.
The gifts, he said, “were essentially personal effects – watches, jewelry.”
Jackson’s finances fell apart after he was arrested in 2003 over allegations he molested a 13-year-old boy at his ranch. A jury cleared him of all the charges.
Last week he was forced to give up the deed on Neverland, a 2,500-acre (1,000 hectare) miniature amusement park in California named for the mythical land of Peter Pan.