EMBATTLED R&B singer R Kelly wants a judge to grant him permission to fly on a private aircraft to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to perform previously scheduled concerts.
But, in a shock development, Dubai’s government has today forcefully denied the singer’s claim that he had planned concerts in the sheikhdom, after he had sought permission from an Illinois judge to travel there despite facing sexual abuse charges.
His lawyer, Steve Greenberg, filed a motion to travel during Kelly’s planned hearing on Friday, in a Chicago criminal court.
Kelly was charged on February 22 with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse for allegedly assaulting three girls and one adult woman, coming after the release of a documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
He has denied ever abusing anyone, and has surrendered his passport.
A condition of his bond is that he is banned from travelling outside Illinois without court permission.
Greenberg told the Chicago Sun-Times: “He needs to be able to work like anyone else who is free on bond, and the law needs to be adaptable.”
The lawyer said that he would be willing to travel with the singer, to act as his “chaperone”.
On Friday, though, his Chicago pre-trial hearing only briefly touched on a defence motion asking the judge in the sexual-assault case to approve Kelly’s travel, reports Fox 17, Nashville.
The singer was portrayed as desperate for concert income, to pay mounting bills.
Authorities in Dubai have not received any request for a performance by singer R. Kelly nor are there any venues that have been booked.
Dubai Media Office statement
After his appearance, Greenberg told reporters outside court that he wanted to get more information on the concerts to give Judge Lawrence Flood “a certain comfort level” about what the travel and concerts would entail.
But today, any thoughts of performing in the UAE have been well and truly quashed.
The Associated Press reports that, in a rare statement, the government’s Dubai Media Office also denied claims by his lawyer in court that Kelly had plans to meet the sheikhdom’s ruling Al Maktoum family.
The statement added: “Authorities in Dubai have not received any request for a performance by singer R. Kelly nor are there any venues that have been booked.”
It added Kelly “has not been invited by the Dubai royal family for a performance.”
In an email to AP, Kelly’s lawyer responded saying: “Mr. Kelly had a signed contract with a legitimate promoter, and any information that was included in the motion to travel was from that contract.
“We did not say he was invited by the royal family, but the contract did provide that he would make himself available to meet with them.”
“Struggling” to pay child support
In a court filing last week, Greenberg had said the singer needed to raise money as “he has struggled of late to pay his child support and other child-related expenses.
“Before he was arrested Mr. Kelly had signed a contract to perform between 3-5 shows in Dubai, UAE, in April 2019.
“He requests permission to travel to Dubai for the shows. While there he is supposed to meet with the royal family.”
Kelly has three children from his marriage to his former back-up dancer Andrea Lee. The couple divorced in January 2009.
The filing did not elaborate on where Kelly was allegedly supposed to sing.
There was no publicised event for which Kelly was known to be a performer, says AP.
However, Dubai’s luxury nightclubs often host hip hop and other artists for days at a time to perform and be seen among the millionaires of the skyscraper-studded city.
America has no extradition treaty with UAE
Rich families also pay for celebrities to be seen at their parties.
The UAE’s seven emirates are overseen by hereditary rulers who hold absolute power.
Dubai’s ruler is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 69.
His 36-year-old son, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, serves as Dubai’s crown prince and is next in line to be ruler.
Dubai, home to the world’s largest manmade archipelago, the Palm Jumeriah, has long drawn celebrities seeking both luxury and seclusion.
Will Smith, for example, is a repeated visitor, and 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, points out AP.
Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf, facing criminal charges back home, fled to Dubai in 2016.
Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra went to Dubai to avoid a criminal conviction in 2017, following in the footsteps of her brother, the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The US does not have an extradition treaty with the UAE.