London Court Listens to The Attempted Escape of an Arabian Princess

London Court Listens to The Attempted Escape of an Arabian Princess

On the night of March 4-5, 2018, a U.S.-flagged luxury yacht was intercepted by gunboats in international waters, 50 nautical miles (92 kilometers) off the Indian coast of Goa. In a plot that looked ripped from a Hollywood thriller, heavily armed masked men threw gas shells into the boat to maim passengers before seizing the cruiser, the Nostromo. 

In a swift operation, they transferred two women to their boat: Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and her Finnish fitness trainer Tiina Jauhiainen.

Exactly two years later, a British court last week confirmed that the yacht was raided by the Indian Coast Guard at the request of UAE authorities to stop the princess from fleeing the country.

The U.K. High Court Judge Andrew McFarlane concluded that the princess and her close friend, Jauhiainen who had escaped from the Dubai palace on Feb. 24, 2018 were on board the ship. They were on way to Washington via Goa to seek political asylum.

The court was actually hearing a different matter related to the custody of the Dubai ruler’s two other children; 12-year old Sheikha al Jalila and 7-year-old Sheikh Zayad. Their mother, Princess Haya bint al Hussein, the second wife of Dubai’s ruler, had also escaped to London along with her children alleging harassment and torture.

Interestingly, she is the sister of King Abdulla II of Jordan. To stay in London and contest the case in court, Jordan had appointed her as the first secretary at their embassy to enable her to claim diplomatic immunity against the UAE request for deportation. These two children are the youngest of Maktoum’s 25 children from different wives.

‘Forced marriage to Saudi crown prince’

Haya, who has filed for divorce told the court that her daughter was being married to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 22 years her senior. She said that the planned nuptials were a key reason for her escape from the Dubai palace, according to court documents available with Anadolu Agency.

Lawyer Alex Verdan, representing the Dubai royal family, however, disputed the claim, saying there was no such plan. “There have been no forced marriages. That is not what this father does with his daughters — there are about 13 of them — at this age.”

The court also heard of Haya’s alleged extra-marital affair with her bodyguard — a former British soldier named Russell Flowers — with whom she fled.

The British judge, who is also president of the Family Division of the U.K. High Court, while digging out past incidents of the Dubai palace including the fate of Latifa and her elder sister Princess Shamsa handed over custody of the children to the mother, Haya. The court also gave her immunity from deportation, because the Jordanian government had withdrawn her diplomatic status a few months ago.

Dubai sheikh’s response

It is widely believed that Latifa became friends with a French-origin U.S. citizen Herve Jaubert, who had laid the plan for her escape from Dubai, besides arranging political asylum in Washington.

But Jauhiainen told the court that the princess had actually read a book Escape from Dubai, authored by the Frenchman in the middle of 2017 and therefore wanted his help.

Al Maktoum in his response said that Jaubert was manipulating the princess and this was a security and intelligence issue.

“Certainly, a financial demand was made to us. We feared that our daughter was in the hands of a criminal who might hold her to ransom and harm her. To this day I consider that Latifa’s return to Dubai was a rescue mission,” he said.

While Al Maktoum’s lawyers believe that Jaubert was a spy, trying to seek an entry into the palace, Jauhianen said that Latifa had paid around £350,000 ($455,364) for her escape and purchasing of equipment.

Jaubert, a former French Navy officer, had worked for the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), France’s external intelligence agency until 1993 before moving to Stuart, Florida, where he set up a company to build and operate recreational submarines. In 2004 he moved to Dubai and was made in charge of a newly formed subsidiary Dubai World, the company behind the development of Palm Jumeirah and the World Islands.

 

According to documents from Dubai courts, in 2008 Jaubert was charged with embezzling funds and providing faulty equipment. He was alleged to have short-changed Dubai World by 14 million Emirati dirham ($3.8 million). But before facing prison, he put on a combat swimsuit and a woman’s burka to disguise and swam for six hours to reach international waters. A former fellow spy was waiting for him in a sailing boat, which carried him to Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, and from there he returned to Florida.

Latifa who was in constant touch with him escaped from the palace in late Feburary 2018.

“The weather on that day was not good and the sea was strong. Jaubert and another crew member met us after we traveled some 14 miles on a dinghy. They transferred us to jet skis. It was late in the evening that we reached the yacht, the Nostromo,” she said.

For the next eight days the Nostromo sailed south in international waters of the Arabian Sea. On the sixth day, they noticed a boat shadowing their passage. An Indian Coast Guard spotter plane also made regular sorties over the boat.

Yacht raided by Indian guards

According to the Finish trainer, Indian forces encircled and then raided the yacht. They fired smoke grenades together with gunshots and subdued the crew and passengers. Jauhianen was dragged to the deck with her hands tied behind her back.

“I saw Latifa lying face down on the floor with her hands similarly bound. Indian servicemen kept shouting who is Latifa over and over again. After some time, an Arab man was brought on board who identified the princess. Latifa was shouting that she claimed asylum and that the Indian forces were breaking international law,” said Jauhianen.

“You cannot get me back alive. Do not take me back. Shoot me here do not take me back,” she heard Latifa’s last words as the princess was being dragged away.

“We had lost a close friend in a skydiving accident and also her sister Shamsa’s situation had gotten worse so Latifa thought that life is too short to wait for things to improve. Also, she didn’t want to end up being locked up again as Shamsa did,” said Jauhiainen.

She said they are worried because they have not heard anything about her after March 4, 2018. The UN, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other groups have been demanding information from the UAE to reveal her whereabouts. Two UN bodies have even written to India and sought explanation about the secret operation conducted in international waters.

The lawyer of the princess, David Haigh said that he had got the details of Latifa’s travails from the royal family’s British attendant named Collete. “My mutual friend contacted her by phone and I contacted her on WhatsApp. She was meant to call me back,” he said.

Rejecting claims that Jaubert was a U.S. spy, out to conspire against the royal family by using Latifa, Haigh said they earlier accused him of being a member of a Qatari espionage network. They had also accused Haya of working for Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

UK police investigating abduction of another princess

Ironically, the Cambridgeshire Police in the U.K is also investigating the case of the abduction of Shamsa in a case which goes back to 2000. She had arrived in England but separated from her family. An immigration solicitor told the court that he had met the princess in a hostel in South London, where she sought immigration advice to settle in the U.K.

Days later, according to police records, a few Arab men caught her in Cambridge on Aug. 19, 2000 and took her to her father’s residence in Newmarket, wherefrom a helicopter flew her to Deauville, France and then transferred her to a jet for the onward flight to Dubai.

According to Cambridgeshire Police file, Al Shaibani, a UAE national working in the royal palace, identified a man codenamed RB, in charge of the Dubai air wing, as one of the men, who abducted the princess.

“They arrived at Newmarket at 6.30 p.m. GMT. Mr. Al Shaibani left the property for a short time to collect a takeaway meal and on his return an Arab lady, who he had not met before, who was quite young and dressed in western clothes was present. He formed the view that she had been drinking. The following morning the three men and the young woman took off in the helicopter,” said police records quoting Al Shaibani.

Lawyer Haigh believes that all these episodes have remarkable similarities with what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident author and columnist for The Washington Post, who went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018.

After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later, the Saudi administration admitted he was killed there, blaming a rogue group of Saudi operatives.

The CIA reportedly determined with confidence that the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed Khashoggi’s murder.

Related Articles

Back to top button