Michael Jackson to testify in British court

LONDON Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:31am EST

Michael Jackson arrives for the 2006 World Music Awards at Earls Court in London November 15, 2006. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Michael Jackson arrives for the 2006 World Music Awards at Earls Court in London November 15, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

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LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Jackson will appear in a British court next week to testify in a lawsuit brought against him by a Bahraini prince, the singer's lawyer said on Thursday.

The reclusive 50-year-old pop star is being sued by Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain, who says Jackson reneged on a contract to record a new album and write an autobiography.

He also says Jackson owes him $7 million after the prince paid for his legal costs, travel and other expenses.

Jackson spent time in Bahrain as a guest of the royal family following a 2005 trial at the end of which he was acquitted of child molestation charges.

"He has been cleared by his medical advisers to travel in two days' time," Jackson's lawyer Robert Englehart told the High Court in London.

"Mr. Jackson is intending to travel to this country ... and will be available to give evidence to your lordship." The U.S. singer is expected to appear on Monday afternoon.

Englehart had initially argued that Jackson was unwell and should not travel, handing the judge a report earlier this week on the singer's medical condition.

Bankim Thanki, representing al-Khalifa, said the medical evidence produced was "pretty unsubstantial" and that Jackson had a habit of producing a "sick note" when he did not want to turn up in court.

SHEIKH TAKES STAND

Al-Khalifa took the witness stand on Thursday and faced a barrage of questions from Englehart about his relationship with Jackson and whether he had ever expected to be repaid the sums he paid to the star.

Jackson contests that there was no valid agreement with al-Khalifa and that the sheikh's case is based on "mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence."

In his pleaded defense, Jackson said the payments he received were "gifts" and that no project was ever finalized.

"It would be fair to say that you are, at least by the ordinary standards of the English bourgeoisie, extremely wealthy?" Englehart asked.

"I would see myself as someone who is very fortunate, yes," al-Khalifa replied.

Al-Khalifa said he had originally explored the idea of recording and working with Jackson's brother Jermaine before collaborating with Michael.

The court heard how he spent $450,000 to fund Jermaine's travel to and expenses in Bahrain in late 2004 and early 2005, and paid for a Rolls-Royce car for him in California.

"You undoubtedly are an extremely generous person," Englehart said.

Al-Khalifa has said he felt betrayed by Michael Jackson.

"Michael is an individual who is very switched on," he said. "He is a fantastic businessman and a fantastic intellectual."

Al-Khalifa said he spoke regularly with Jackson over the telephone in late 2004 and 2005, when the star was on trial, and also worked on songs together including "Light the Way" and "He Who Makes the Sky Gray." Neither was made into a record.

Al-Khalifa wants Jackson to repay him for a recording studio he built in Bahrain where the two were to have worked on new music, but Englehart said the sheikh continued to use it.

The court heard how al-Khalifa gave Jackson $1 million before he met him. Englehart said he had intended it as a gift all along, but al-Khalifa disputed this.

Englehart said that Jackson told al-Khalifa in a letter dated June 22, 2006 that he no longer wished to pursue a project with the prince.

(To read more about our entertainment news, visit our blog "Fan Fare" online at blogs.reuters.com/fanfare)

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