Dubai found itself entangled in the sex abuse case against American R&B singer R. Kelly on Thursday after the performer asked a U.S. judge to allow him to come to the Arabian Peninsula sheikhdom to perform shows and “meet with the royal family.”
Officials in Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press regarding the singer’s request, which an Illinois judge could consider at a court hearing on Friday.
However, Kelly’s request highlighted the close political and security ties between the U.S. and the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms. It also comes as celebrities and even world leaders on the run have chosen Dubai as a safe haven.
Dubai, home to the world’s largest manmade archipelago the Palm Jumeriah and an indoor ski slope in its desert climes, has long drawn celebrities craving both luxury and seclusion. Will Smith is a repeated visitor. Lindsay Lohan lives off and on in the sheikhdom. David Beckham, Shah Rukh Khan and others are believed to own property in Dubai.
Yet it also has drawn world leaders seeking to escape their own countries. Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf, facing criminal charges back home, fled to Dubai in 2016. Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra came to Dubai to avoid a criminal conviction in 2017, following in the footsteps of her brother, the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with the UAE. However, the U.S. stations some 5,000 troops in the country and Dubai’s Jebel Ali port is the biggest port of call for the U.S. Navy outside of America.
Kelly’s lawyer acknowledged that in his filing.
“The United States and the UAE have great relations and they (UAE) are not going to (jeopardize) that relationship to harbor R. Kelly,” the filing said.