The kidnapped princesses: One was snatched off a Cambridge street, drugged and flown to Dubai… the other was grabbed by a gang of 15 masked commandos who stormed the yacht on which she was trying to flee and spirited her away by speedboat
- Dubai’s Princess Shamsa was snatched from a Cambridge street 20 years ago
- Her sister, Princess Latifa, was seized from yacht Nostromo on the Indian Ocean
- The Emirate will now face international pressure to free the UAE leader’s daughters from their ‘torture’ chambers in his palaces
Princess Shamsa was snatched from the streets of Cambridge 20 years ago. She has not been since in public since.
Now High Court judge Sir Andrew McFarlane has sensationally concluded that her autocratic father Sheikh al-Maktoum is keeping her captive.
It means Dubai will come under international pressure to free her and her sister Princess Latifa from their ‘torture’ chambers in their father’s palaces.
Before going on the run herself and being captured in 2018, Latifa recorded a chilling video claiming her elder sister Shamsa was kept on medication to ‘control her mind’ that had ‘made her like a zombie’.
She said Shamsa ‘had been kept in the dark continuously for months, perhaps years. She could not open her eyes properly for a long time because she had not seen daylight for so long’. Kept prisoner in a Dubai palace, Shamsa had ‘tried to kill herself many times’.
Before going on the run herself and being captured in 2018, Latifa recorded a chilling video claiming her elder sister Shamsa (pictured in an undated photo) was kept on medication to ‘control her mind’ that had ‘made her like a zombie’
Until now, the extraordinary story of the ‘zombie princess’ Shamsa and her kidnap could only be pieced together from second-hand reports.
In mid-July 2000 the ‘headstrong’ then 19-year-old princess – reportedly angry her father wouldn’t let her go to university and disgusted by Dubai’s human rights record – evaded high-security at her father’s sprawling Longcross estate in Surrey, where the family spent most summers.
She drove her black Range Rover to the corner of the grounds and escaped through a perimeter fence on to Chobham Common, then ran off.
Staff discovered her abandoned car the next day, sparking chaos. As a search operation swung into action, the sheikh flew in from his horse racing base in Newmarket, Suffolk, to take charge.
All staff were sent out, on horseback or in cars, to search for the runaway. Nothing was found except Shamsa’s discarded mobile on the common.
In mid-July 2000 the ‘headstrong’ then 19-year-old princess – reportedly angry her father wouldn’t let her go to university and disgusted by Dubai’s human rights record – evaded high-security at her father’s sprawling Longcross estate (pictured) in Surrey, where the family spent most summers
For a few weeks, his teenage daughter evaded capture by staying at a hostel in south London. But on August 19, her father’s henchmen caught up with her outside a bar in Cambridge. The sheikh had traced her after ordering the bugging of Shamsa’s friends’ phones, the High Court judgment found. He had even offered a Rolex watch bribe to one.
Shamsa later wrote in a letter she apparently managed to smuggle out of captivity that ‘I was caught by my father’. She wrote: ‘He managed to track me down through someone I kept in touch with. He sent four Arab men to catch me.
‘They were carrying guns and threatening me. They drove me to my father’s place in Newmarket – there they gave me two injections and a handful of tablets. The very next morning a helicopter came and flew me to the plane, which took me back to Dubai. I am locked up.
‘I haven’t seen anyone – not even the man you call my father. I told you this would happen.’
She was flown to Deauville in France by helicopter and then to Dubai by private plane, probably the sheikh’s Boeing 737 business jet or his smaller Gulfstream G-IV, both of which were in Europe that August.
Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attend day two of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse in an undated photo
According to a friend of Shamsa, Longcross staff were made to sign confidentiality agreements forbidding them talking about her disappearance. Nothing was made public. Then in March 2001, Cambridgeshire police received a phone call from a British solicitor with a bizarre tale to tell.
He said he was acting for Princess Shamsa and gave details of the alleged kidnapping and how she was smuggled out of the UK.
The allegation was passed to David Beck, then detective chief inspector of Cambridge CID. ‘Kidnap is a major offence,’ he said. ‘It’s not every day that an allegation involving a head of state lands on a police officer’s desk.’
Sir Andrew’s ruling said Mr Beck – who gave evidence – had interviewed Shamsa’s friends and many of the sheikh’s staff, who corroborated several aspects of the story.
View on Beach Palace of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai, UAE on November 26, 2011
At least one of those closely involved in the abduction, identified as Mohammed Al Shaibani, remains one of the sheikh’s assistants to this day.
The sheikh tried to fob off police by saying his daughter ‘felt constricted by the security arrangements that were necessarily in place around her’.
He told detectives she had gone ‘missing’ and they feared she had been kidnapped, adding: ‘She was more vulnerable than other young women of her age because her status made her a kidnap risk. Her mother and I were extremely worried about her safety and wellbeing.
‘I emphasise that her mother and I jointly decided to organise a search for her. When she was found, I remember our feeling of overwhelming relief that she was safe and had not come to any harm.’
Sir Andrew said this statement had actually helped corroborate the allegations, especially as he confirmed the search for her.
He concluded it was true ‘the father ordered the unlawful abduction of his daughter, Sheikha Shamsa, from the United Kingdom to Dubai’.
Yesterday Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: ‘An investigation into the alleged abduction of Shamsa Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2000 was carried out in 2001. With the evidence that was available to us this was insufficient to take any further action.
‘A review took place in 2017 and it was again concluded there was insufficient evidence to take any further action. This is no longer an active investigation and we are not in contact with the victim.’
On a cold starlit night two years ago, the yacht Nostromo was nearing the Indian coast after a 1,500 mile journey across the Arabian Sea.
On board were the skipper, a French adventurer and sometime spy, a three-man Filipino crew and two women passengers, one a Finnish national, the other Her Highness Princess Latifa al-Maktoum.
The princess, who had hired the yacht and its captain to flee her despotic father for a new life abroad, was in her cabin below deck as the Nostromo slowed to five knots, the speed of a fishing boat, to lessen the risk of being spotted.
On board were the skipper, a French adventurer and sometime spy, a three-man Filipino crew and two women passengers, one a Finnish national, the other Her Highness Princess Latifa al-Maktoum (pictured)
They were not pirates but commandos sent to retrieve the princess, whose father was billionaire Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, ruler of oil-rich Dubai and horse race-loving friend of the Royal Family. She had locked herself in her bathroom when the men smashed their way in, saying: ‘Come on Latifa, let’s go home’
Then out of the darkness, two speedboats roared alongside. They carried 15 masked men armed with Israeli-made laser-pointed assault rifles who tossed smoke bombs and stun grenades on board before storming the vessel where they handcuffed and beat the captain, Herve Jaubert, and seized the crew at gunpoint.
They were not pirates but commandos sent to retrieve the princess, whose father was billionaire Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, ruler of oil-rich Dubai and horse race-loving friend of the Royal Family. She had locked herself in her bathroom when the men smashed their way in, saying: ‘Come on Latifa, let’s go home.’ Kicking and screaming that she would rather die than go, she was hurled into one of the speedboats.
It was the last anyone would see of the princess until December 2018 when, in an incendiary intervention, Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president, declared the then 33-year old was ‘in the loving care’ of her family.
Mrs Robinson posed for photos alongside the princess. The pictures were later released in an apparent attempt to prove that she was not being held against her will – although she looked withdrawn and dishevelled. Pointedly, Latifa had predicted any attempt at escape would result in sedation and claims of mental illness.
They carried 15 masked men armed with Israeli-made laser-pointed assault rifles who tossed smoke bombs and stun grenades on board before storming the vessel where they handcuffed and beat the captain, Herve Jaubert, and seized the crew at gunpoint
In the uproar that followed, Mrs Robinson was accused by human rights groups of being a ‘willing pawn in the PR battle between the United Arab Emirates ruling family and the world’.
So what really happened to Latifa?
Her story started to be told in February 2018. In a hotel room with the curtains drawn, a young woman speaks to a camera. It is Latifa, one of the 30 children of Sheikh Mohammed by his six wives, who described her father as ‘one of the most evil men in the world.’ She then calmly and methodically details what life – and in particular hers – is like in money-no-object Dubai.
Her home is a palace with 100 staff and when she goes out she has a driver to take her. Her days are spent scuba diving, messing around on jet-skis and skydiving. But she was followed and watched at all times, not permitted to drive and foreign travel was unthinkable. Her passport was kept from her. Any individual freedom was erased – two of her sisters were even named Latifa, too.
In her video, Latifa labels her outwardly benign father, who often takes tea with the Queen, as a ‘major criminal… responsible for a lot of deaths’. She also tells how an elder sister, Shamsa, ran away from the family while staying in Surrey and remained at large in the UK for two months before being grabbed off the street, drugged ‘like a zombie’ and imprisoned for eight years.
Undeterred, at 16 Latifa too tried to escape from Dubai but was caught at the Oman border. She claims she was imprisoned for more than three years, tortured by beatings and kept in solitary confinement for days on end.
‘Basically, one guy was holding me while the other guy was beating me, and they did that repeatedly,’ she told Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish woman she had befriended in Dubai, adding: ‘They told me: “Your father told us to beat you until we kill you – that’s his orders”.’
Latifa said in the 2018 video filmed before her second escape bid: ‘It was constant torture, constant torture, even when they weren’t physically beating me up, they were torturing me. They would switch off all the lights. I was in solitary confinement by myself totally, and there’s no windows, there’s no light, so when they switched off the light, it was pitch black.
‘They would switch it off for days, so I didn’t know when one day ended then the next began and then they would – they would make sounds to harass me and then they would come in the middle of the night to, pull me out of bed to beat me.’
Pictured: The Nostromo US yacht which was illegally seized off the coast of India. In the uproar that followed, Mrs Robinson was accused by human rights groups of being a ‘willing pawn in the PR battle between the United Arab Emirates ruling family and the world’
Emirati authorities rubbished all the claims. But now the High Court has found them to be true. Then, aged 19, she was abruptly freed and allowed to hire tutors. Her affluent life resumed but her dream to escape continued. Latifa’s second breakout plot was hatched over seven years. She enlisted ex-naval officer Hervé Jaubert, a former French spy who had once escaped the UAE wearing a burqa, and offered him hundreds of thousands of euros to get her out.
On February 24, 2018, Princess Latifa, then 32, and Miss Jauhiainen went to a cafe for breakfast. Latifa removed her full-length abaya robe and they drove to Oman. ‘It was Latifa’s first time sitting in the front of a car, so we took selfies,’ Miss Jauhiainen has recalled. They sailed in a dingy 16 miles off the coast of the capital Muscat, to a rendevous at sea with the Frenchman, who was waiting with jet-skis.
Then they zoomed over the waves another 15 miles to his 100ft yacht, Nostromo, where his Filipino crew were waiting to sail them over the Arabian Sea to Goa, where the princess hoped to fly to the US and claim asylum. But the Sheikh’s electronic snoopers were almost certainly tracking their smartphones.
‘Latifa and I were in the cabin when we heard what sounded like gunfire,’ recalled Miss Jauhiainen. In terror we locked ourselves in the bathroom, but the cabin started filling with smoke.’
Outside they came face to face with Indian commandos, armed with machine guns. ‘I was pushed to the floor. They tied my hands behind my back and told me “Don’t move or we’ll shoot you”.’ She was marched to the outer deck, pushed over the railings towards the sea and told: ‘Take your last breath. We’re going to shoot your brain out.’
n this Wednesday, June, 15, 2016 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, right, greets Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai and his wife Princess Haya of Jordan in the royal box on the second day of the Royal Ascot horse race meeting at Ascot, England
Miss Jauhiainen said: ‘Latifa kept repeating that she was seeking political asylum, but she was taken, kicking and screaming. Her last words were: “Don’t take me back – just shoot me here”.’
The Finnish woman, Mr Jaubert and his crew were taken to a prison in the United Arab Emirates where they were interrogated for hours before suddenly being released after two weeks.
The act of piracy happened in international waters, against a US-flagged yacht. The princess was flown away in a helicopter. Her Instagram account was deleted soon after. But Latifa had an insurance policy – she had made the chilling video in case she was caught, and entrusted it to a lawyer in America. Days later it was released on YouTube, where so far it has been viewed 4.2million times.
The High Court judge concluded of Latifa: ‘She was plainly desperate to extricate herself from her family and prepared to undertake a dangerous mission in order to do so. I feel confident in relying upon all that Latifa has said in the video and elsewhere.’
Sheikh Maktoum told the court in a statement that she had been ‘manipulated’ by Mr Jaubert whose ‘objective was to extort money’. He claimed: ‘To this day I consider that Latifa’s return to Dubai was a rescue mission.’
His ex-wife Princess Haya’s legal team sought to require the sheikh to bring Shamsa and Latifa to England to be interviewed as part of the case. But he claimed they were ‘adamant’ they did not wish to.
The judge has now ruled: ‘I do not accept that Shamsa and Latifa have been given a free choice.’
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