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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A son of the king of Bahrain took U.S. pop star Michael Jackson to court on Monday for reneging on an agreement to record a new album and write an autobiography.
Bankim Thanki, the lawyer representing Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Khalifa, told London's High Court that his client had made several payments to Jackson from 2005 onwards, including $35,000 to pay utility bills at Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
The court heard that the following month, in April 2005, Jackson asked for one million dollars through an assistant, the Press Association reported.
"Sheikh Abdullah made many more payments on his behalf or to others," Thanki said.
"Sheikh Abdullah began to support Mr. Jackson financially after 2005 when it became clear that Mr. Jackson was in very serious financial difficulties, much to Sheikh Abdullah's surprise," Thanki added.
The early financial support coincided with Jackson's 2005 trial on child molestation charges. Despite his acquittal, the case left the 50-year-old performer's reputation and financial status in tatters.
Jackson spent time in Bahrain as a guest of the royal family following the trial, and in April 2006 a statement was released on behalf of Bahrain music label Two Seas Records announcing he would record a new album for release in 2007.
The sheikh is suing the pop legend for allegedly reneging on a $7 million "pay-back" agreement designed to repay money he advanced to Jackson during his financial troubles.
He said he and Jackson entered into a "combined rights agreement" under which the star was committed to a recording contract, an autobiography and a musical stage play.
But Jackson contests that there was no valid agreement and that the sheikh's case was 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.
At the start of a court hearing set for up to 12 days, the judge heard that an application would be made for Jackson to give evidence via video link from Los Angeles.
Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato