Fayeds challenge refusal of citizenship

The Egyptian-born owners of Harrods, Mohammed Al Fayed and brother Ali, are set to take on the Government in the High Court. They have been given the go-ahead to challenge the Home Office refusal to grant them British citizenship.

Their moves to seek judicial review of the refusal are expected to be vigorously opposed by the Home Office; their successful application before Mr Justice Popplewell to bring the case to the High Court was opposed by Home Secretary Michael Howard. But the judge ruled that the brothers, aged 62 and 51 respectively, were entitled to challenge the decision on the basis they had not been given reasons for being refused citizenship and in these circumstances had been denied natural justice.

The judge said the brothers had an arguable case which raised matters "of some considerable importance".

The brothers were represented at the application for leave by Michael Beloff QC. He told the court there was concern that the citizenship applications were blocked for improper political motives, an issue which will resurface in the full hearing.

Beloff argued that it was difficult to see what could be more unfair to the Fayed brothers than to take a decision of such sensitivity in so that they were left in the dark as to their possible fate and denied an opportunity to avoid it.

He said concern had been expressed that political reasons, which were legally improper and irrelevant, could be behind the Home Office move.

It is the second High Court case involving the citizenship of the Fayeds. The government of Dubai may also face accusations of using a loan as a tool for political pressure against Mohammed Al Fayed and his brothers in a pending High Court breach of contract action.

That dispute is over a US$7 million loan to a shipping company and is pending in the High Court commercial list.

One of the allegations already made at preliminary hearings of that case is that the Dubai Government refused, without explanation, to renew passports of members of the Al Fayed family.