Princess Latifa Begs UK Police to Reopen Abduction Probe of Her Sister Shamsa

Published February 25th, 2021 - 08:28 GMT
The Queen and Prince Edward greet Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya at Royal Ascot in 2016. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
The Queen and Prince Edward greet Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya at Royal Ascot in 2016. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
Highlights
Dubai's Princess Shamsa was snatched from a Cambridge street in 2000.

Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the kidnapped daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed, has asked British police to re-investigate the snatching of her older sister from a Cambridge street in a secret letter sent from captivity in Dubai.

Latifa has begged Cambridgeshire Police to start a new probe claiming it could help free Princess Shamsa, who was captured on the orders of their billionaire father after she fled his Surrey estate in 2000.

Her letter leaked to the BBC came a week after she helped smuggle a series of haunting videos out of captivity, describing herself as being held 'hostage' by her father in the footage secretly filmed in her bathroom and shared with MailOnline.

She wrote: 'All I ask of you is to please give attention on her case because it could get her freedom your help and attention on her case could free her. She has strong links to England… she really loves England, all of her fondest memories are of her time there.'

She added: 'She was kept incommunicado with no release date, trial or charge. She was tortured by getting her feet caned'.

Cambridgeshire Police has confirmed it has received Latifa's letter, which will now be 'looked at as part of the ongoing review'. The spokesman said: 'This is a very complex and serious matter and as such there are details of the case that it would be inappropriate to discuss publicly.'

Princess Latifa disappearance came 18 years after her sister Princess Shamsa vanished and they share the same mother, Princess Houria Ahmed Lamara, from Algeria.

Details of Shamsa's disappearance were laid bare in a judgment by High Court judge Sir Andrew McFarlane in March 2020 who sensationally concluded that her autocratic father Sheikh al-Maktoum is keeping her captive.  

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.

For a few weeks, his teenage daughter evaded capture by staying at a hostel in south London. 

But on August 19 2000, 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.

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.

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'.  

Last year Cambridgeshire Constabulary said the case was not active.

A spokesman said: 'An investigation into the alleged abduction of Shamsa Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2000 was carried out by Cambridgeshire Constabulary 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.'

Latifa's intervention came days after speaking publicly for the first time in three years, the 34-year-old royal prisoner describes in vivid detail how her dramatic 2018 escape attempt involving jet skis and a yacht ended in her brutal recapture and forcible repatriation.

The Indian authorities handed her straight back to her billionaire father who has held her against her will ever since, with his henchmen promising her she would 'never see the sun again'.

In the most damning video filmed after her failed escape, the Princess says: 'I'm a hostage. And this villa has been converted into a jail. All the windows are barred shut.

'There's five policemen outside and two policewomen inside. I can't even go out to get fresh air. So basically, I'm a hostage.'

Last year the High Court in London found Latifa's father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 'ordered and orchestrated' her abduction and forced return to Dubai on two occasions, in 2002 and again in 2018.  

Latifa escaped Dubai in February 2018 after recording a disturbing video in which she revealed her troubled relationship with her father.

In the video, Latifa accused him of jailing her for three years in 2002 when she tried to escape what she called his 'repressive control'.

The princess said she was drugged and tortured on the orders of her father.

She said was not allowed to drive, had no passport and was followed by a team of guards. 

Latifa also claimed her older sister Shamsa is being kept against her will in Dubai after she tried to escape the kingdom and was abducted from the UK in 2000.

Latifa, who is one of the Sheikh's 30 children by his six wives, fled Dubai by jet ski to rendezvous with a yacht waiting to sail to India. 

After eight days at sea, the yacht she was travelling on was boarded by Indian commandos off the coast of Goa and she was returned to the custody of her father in Dubai.

The sheikh says Latifa was tricked into escaping by criminals who wanted money and that returning her to Dubai was a rescue mission. 

He has been the subject of allegations that have come from a number of members of his family. As well as Latifa and one of her sisters, two former wives claim he abused them. The sheikh denies the claims.  

Three years on from that episode, Latifa has released another series of videos, this time secretly recorded by in 2019. 

Looking pale and frightened, she described the moment when the yacht on which she made her failed escape attempt, skippered by a hired former French spy she had hired, was stormed by Indian troops at sea.

Eight days into the voyage the Sheikh's military forces tracked her down 30 miles off Goa when the boat, Nostromo, was boarded by Indian special forces firing off stun grenades and tear gas.

'I kept saying you can't take me back,' she recalled. 'I want asylum and we're in international waters. You can't kidnap me. They were just on a mission and they were given orders.'

Latifa describes how she fought with two Emirati officers and bit one of them on the arm before her hands were zip tied and she was later tranquilised to keep her quiet.

She says: 'The same guy who tranquilised me came and then he tranquilised me again on my left arm. They put me on a stretcher, and as they were carrying me up steps of a private jet is when I passed out.

'When I woke up the jet had already landed in Dubai and I just felt really sad at this point. Everything I was working on for so many years to get my freedom was gone.'

The recordings were made at great risk to her personal safety and smuggled out of Dubai to her supporters in the UK who have her permission to release them in the hope it will secure her release.

The Princess – one of the Sheikh's 30 children by six different wives - tells how she has been imprisoned and threatened with being shot unless she cooperates with the official statements issued by her father.

Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai Royal Court have claimed she is safe in the loving care of her family.

'They want me to break and they want propaganda from me,' she said. 'They also threatened me that I'll be in prison my whole life and I'll never see the sun again.'

The new footage, which will also be broadcast by BBC Panorama on Tuesday evening, fully supports a High Court judge's ruling last year that the Sheikh had ordered Latifa's kidnap and imprisonment, first in Dubai's grim Al Awir jail, then in the sealed villa.

India has never commented on its alleged role in the operation.  

The ruler had previously been pictured alongside the Queen at horse racing events due to their shared passion for the sport, although the Queen was said to 'distance herself' from him following the High Court ruling. 

The videos will also be a source of embarrassment to former Irish president Mary Robinson who visited Latifa in a stage-managed meeting and declared her a 'troubled young woman' without asking if she was being held against her will. 

Ms Robinson, also a former UN High Commissioner for human rights, was labelled a 'willing pawn' in the charade, after she described Latifa as being 'in the loving care of her family'.

Ms Robinson now says she was 'horribly tricked' into attending the stag-managed meeting.

The former head of state said it had been a private meeting and that she had been surprised to see photos of her meeting Latifa had been released to the media.

Of the meeting Ms Robinson said she had been told the princess suffered from bipolar disorder and that she should not discuss the condition with her.

'I was deeply tricked when the photographs went public, horribly tricked,' she told the BBC. 'I mean that was a total surprise. I was absolutely shocked.'  

The meeting had been arranged by the Sheikh's second wife Princess Haya who was to later flee from Dubai in fear of her own life after her affair with one of her bodyguards was exposed.

Latifa said of Robinson: 'She said I was mentally troubled. She said that I was a troubled young woman, and I had a serious medical condition and I was getting help for it.

'That's implying that I have psychiatric problems. She knew that I was okay. She lied and it was all a set up.'

All the videos were recorded in 2019 after a mobile phone was secretly smuggled into the villa where she is kept away from other members of the Dubai royal family and friends.

The Princess tells how her father, a close friend of the Queen, wants her to make a video where she says she is happy and living in Dubai voluntarily.

Latifa was able to secretly record the videos in the bathroom of her villa which is in the shadow of the Burj al Arab, one of the most famous buildings in Dubai.

She somehow made contact with her best friend, Finnish fitness instructor Tiina Jauhiainen, who took part in the failed escape bid, and lawyer David Haigh who together set up the Free Latifa campaign.

Tiina first met Latifa in late 2010 when she started giving her lessons in capoeira, a martial art, about five times a week. Over the years, Latifa confided in her and in 2017 asked for Tiina's help in trying to escape. 

After plotting together in the glitzy Dubai Mall, according to Tiina's account, the pair drove for six hours to reach Muscat, the capital of Oman, where they got into a dinghy and boarded a US-flagged boat. 

Latifa hoped to travel to India and then the United States to seek asylum, but on March 4, 2018 they were intercepted by commando units from India and the United Arab Emirates, Jauhiainen said. 

Describing Latifa's state in captivity, Tiina told the BBC: 'She is so pale, she hasn't seen sunlight for months. 'She can basically move just from her room to the kitchen and back.'

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances has called for Latifa's case to be investigated.

The videos are being sent to the UN in the hope they will take a tougher stance against the Sheikh.

David Haigh, co-founder of the Free Latifa Campaign, told MailOnline: 'These videos go right to heart of the lie that Princess Latifa is happy being held in Dubai. She makes it very clear she was kidnapped, and she is a hostage.

'She has made these videos in the hope that the outside world will realise that she is being held against her will.'

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's lavish collection of homes include a £75m Surrey estate, a historic Suffolk mansion and a sprawling Highland retreat with 63,000-acres of land.  

He has also ploughed his extreme wealth into construction projects and sports, including one of the world's most successful thoroughbred horse racing stables, Godolphin, based near in Newmarket, Suffolk.

He bought Longcross estate on green belt land in Surrey in the 90s, as a place to escape the stifling summer heat in the Gulf. 

Sheikh Mohammed later snapped up the historic Dalham Hall in 2009 for £45m, to serve as a stud farm near to the famous Newmarket race course. 

His 63,000-acre Highland estate in Wester Ross was bought for £2million, 20 years ago. It boasts an incredible 58 bedrooms, a triple helipad and a 16-bedroom luxury hunting lodge. 

His property portfolio has been mired in planning disputes with his Surrey mansion at the centre of claims portable cabins had been installed without permission to house his servants, and his Scottish estate was embroiled in a row over the construction of a hunting lodge.

In other business interests, the airline Emirates, which he launched, has a shirt sponsorship deal with Arsenal, worth £200million over four years - and has naming rights to their north London stadium.

His company DP World in 2019 acquired P&O Ferries for £322million, and in Essex he established the London Gateway. Built for £1.5billion, the deep water port on the Thames handles millions of shipping containers every year. 

This article has been adapted from its original source. 


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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