Michael Jackson finds more legal trouble

'King of Pop' sued for sheik's advance money

LONDON -- 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 autobiography he did not produce.

Lawyers for Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain said the money was given to Jackson as an advance on a book and joint recording project with the sheik, 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 will seek permission to testify by video link 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 sheik spent millions paying Jackson's legal fees, 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."

The lawyer said Jackson and the sheik became close, and at one time, both were living in a palace owned by Al Khalifa's father, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, king of oil-rich Bahrain. The singer stayed nearly a year in Bahrain as a guest of the son, who is governor of the nation's Southern Governorate.

Thanki acknowledged that Al Khalifa gave gifts to Jackson but said 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 on allegations he molested a 13-year-old boy at his ranch. A jury cleared him of all charges.

Last week, Jackson was forced to give up the deed on Neverland, a 2,500-acre miniature amusement park in California named for the mythical land of Peter Pan.
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