How Did Indian Forces Bring Back Princess Latifa to Dubai?

Published February 28th, 2021 - 07:42 GMT
 Princess Latifa: A photo from the past
Princess Latifa (Twitter)
Latifa has endured a difficult relationship with her father over the years that has resulted in her trying to escape his kingdom twice, 

A British arms dealer at the centre of a bribery scandal was used as part of a prisoner swap that saw Dubai's Princess Latifa seized by Indian forces and taken back to Dubai where she remains a 'hostage' of her billionaire father.

Christian Michel was extradited to India from Dubai just weeks after Latifa - the daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed -was seized by Indian special forces off the coast of Goa in March 2018.

Latifa has endured a difficult relationship with her father over the years that has resulted in her trying to escape his kingdom twice, 

She attempted to escape from Dubai, one in 2002 and one in 2018, and says she is now being held captive by her father and has been threatened with being shot unless she cooperates.

Her sister Shamsa also tried to escape Dubai when she was 19 in 2000 because she was angry her father wouldn't let her go to university and disgusted by Dubai's human rights record. But she was also captured by men working for her father in England and returned to Dubai. 

The sheikh has denied all abuse claims made by his daughter, who is one of 30 children he has with six wives. 

The United Nations has now officially linked the extradition to Latifa's capture and called for Michel, who is accused of accepting a £40million bribe to sell British-made helicopters to India, to be released.

A report by the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention - which says the charges against Michel are politically motivated - does not mention Latifa by name.

But in its investigation into Michel's detention, it says: 'Mr Michel was told that his extradition was in exchange for the earlier seizure and return of a high-profile detainee to Dubai, despite the detainee's plea for asylum by Indian forces which intercepted the detainee's yacht in international waters off the coast of Goa in March 2018'

Latifa spoke of her terrifying capture in 2018 in a series of secretly recorded videos obtained by MailOnline and BBC Panorama.

The 35-year-old told how she was pinned to the ground and removed from the yacht that had been attempting to take her to a new life away from Dubai.

Latifa was later drugged and flown back to Dubai on the orders of her father Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum.

She has been held in a villa turned into a jail for almost three years while campaigners in the UK press for her release.

In one haunting video she described herself as a 'hostage' with little hope of ever being set free.

The publication of the UN report will increase pressure on the Dubai authorities to act on Latifa.

Despite being asked for 'proof of life' they have refused to say what has happened to the runaway Princess and simply say she is being cared for her family.

India has never commented on its role in seizing Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhianen from the yacht Nostromo eight days into their escape bid.

Emirati security forces were able to locate the yacht from a GPS receiver on the yacht and asked the Indian government to help.

It is thought that Indian special forces who led the raid were told Latifa had been kidnapped.

Her pleas that she was seeking political asylum were ignored and she was taken by force.

Six months after the incident Michel, who had been living in Dubai, was extradited to India.

A previous extradition request by India had been rejected by the Dubai courts after Indian authorities failed to produce any 'serious' evidence of corruption.

Michel is accused of bribing and criminally conspiring with Indian officials to win a contract on behalf of British helicopter manufacturer Augusta Westland for 12 choppers in 2010.

The new fleet of helicopters was to be used by the President of India and other Government ministers.

The 56-year-old is alleged to have received £41million in kickbacks for securing the deal. High-ranking Indian politicians have been implicated in the bribery scandal.

Since his extradition Michel complained he has been tortured by being subjected to repeated interrogations.

He has appealed to Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab for help in securing his release.

Michel had been living in Dubai and acting as a consultant for a subsidiary of Augusta Westland. 

In 2010 the Indian Ministry of Defence placed a £500million order for 12 helicopters to be used by the President and other VIPs.

Three years later corruption charges were brought against the Chairman Augusta Westland’s Italian parent company, Fimmeccanica.

Michel was named in the investigation but never charged, with the Chairman cleared of corruption by the Italian courts in 2014.

The Indian authorities ordered their own investigation and in 2014 the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, used the case to attack the governing United Progressive Alliance party.

After the BJP party won the election Michel was charged in his absence with corruption and attempts by the Indian Government to have him extradited from Dubai were turned down.

Further charges were filed in 2016 accusing Mr Michel of bribing Indian politicians and officials to secure the helicopter contract.

The following year he was arrested but given bail after the Indian authorities said most of the prosecution evidence was based the failed Italian court proceedings. This failed to convince a Dubai court he should be extradited.

However, six months after Indian special forces had tracked down and captured Latifa the extradition was granted and he was flown to India where he remains in jail awaiting trial. 

In its 16-page investigation into the events surrounding Michel's extradition the UN working group, who report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was no legal basis for detention and the charges he faces are politically motivated.

This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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