Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the kidnapped daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has smuggled a series of haunting videos from captivity which have been shared with MailOnline and in which she describes herself as being held ‘hostage’ by her father.
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 damming video, 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.’
Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the kidnapped daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has smuggled a series of haunting videos out of captivity describing herself as being held ‘hostage’ by her father
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day in 2017 with his estranged wife Princess Haya
Timeline: Princess Latifa’s escape and capture
December 1985: Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is born.
August 2000: Her father, the ruler of Dubai, orders Latifa’s sister Shamsa abducted from the UK.
Latifa says she has not been allowed to leave Dubai since this date.
June 2002: The teenage Latifa makes her first escape attempt, but is captured on the UAE’s border with Oman and returned to Dubai on her father’s orders. She says she was subsequently held in prison until 2005.
2010: Latifa meets Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish martial arts instructor. They become close friends, and the princess later confides in her about her earlier escape attempt and what had happened to Shamsa.
2017: The pair begin plotting their escape with clandestine discussions at the glitzy Dubai Mall. Tiina travels to the Philippines to meet a French former spy and naval officer, Herve Jaubert, who had written a book called Escape from Dubai.
February 24, 2018: Latifa and Tiina drive for six hours to reach Oman, where they boarded a dinghy to reach international waters before using jet skis to board the US-flagged boat Nostromo, captained by Jaubert.
March 4, 2018: The Nostromo is intercepted by commando units, allegedly including Indian special forces, who kidnap Latifa and take her back to the UAE.
December 2019: A UK judge finds that the allegations of abduction are proved to be true. He also rules that the sheikh subjected his estranged wife Princess Haya to a campaign of fear and intimidation.
March 2020: The judge’s rulings are made public after the Supreme Court denies the sheikh’s final appeal.
February 2021: New videos come to light in which Latifa, speaking from a ‘villa jail’, describes how her father’s henchmen foiled her escape attempt and says she is being held ‘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.
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 Queen with Sheikh Mohammed on Derby day in 2011
Princess Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen in a selfie on the road to Oman on the first leg of their journey in 2018
Staged-managed photos taken in 2018 showed Latifa posing with the former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson
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.’
A diagram showing Latifa’s daring escape plan from the seas around the United Arab Emirates
A court found that Dubai’s ruler ordered commandos to snatch Princess Latifa (pictured right) from a yacht in 2018 as she tried to escape from the UAE with the help of former French spy Herve Jaubert (left)
Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, right, with his estranged wife Princess Haya bint Al Hussein in 2017
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.’
Princess Latifa Maktoum’s Identity Card (pictured above) which states her full name as Sheikha Latifa Mohd Rashed Almaktoum
Sheikh Mohammed’s UK property empire includes the historic Dalham Hall which he bought in 2009 for £45m, to serve as a stud farm near to Newmarket race course
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.
Timeline: The legal battle involving Dubai’s ruler, his estranged wife and his daughters
The High Court in London last year published rulings relating to the legal battle between Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his former wife Princess Haya bint Al Hussain of Jordan.
Here is a timeline of events in the case.
July 15, 1949 – Sheikh Mohammed is born in Dubai.
May 3, 1974 – Princess Haya born in Amman, Jordan.
August 15, 1981 – Princess Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is born to Sheikh Mohammed, who has several wives.
December 5, 1985 – Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is born.
Summer 2000 – During a visit to England, Shamsa runs away from her family and seeks immigration advice to try and stay in the UK.
August 2000 – Shamsa is taken from the streets of Cambridge by men working for her father.
She is taken to her father’s home in Newmarket, before being taken by helicopter to France and then to Dubai. She has not been seen in public since.
March 2001 – A woman claiming to be Shamsa contacts Cambridgeshire Police, saying she has been taken from England to Dubai.
December 2001 – The Guardian publishes an article suggesting Shamsa has been abducted from the UK.
April 2004 – Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya are married.
December 2, 2007 – Al Jalila born.
January 7, 2012 – Zayed born.
February/March 2018 – A video of Latifa is uploaded to the internet, in which she gives a detailed account of important events in her life. She also describes what she knows about her sister Shamsa’s time in England and her subsequent abduction.
December 6, 2018 – The BBC broadcasts a documentary called Escape From Dubai: The Mystery Of The Missing Princess.
February 7, 2019 – Sheikh Mohammed divorces Princess Haya under sharia law without her knowledge. She says this date, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of her father’s death, is deliberately chosen to ‘maximise insult and upset to her’.
April 15 – Princess Haya travels to the UK with Jalila and Zayed.
May 14 – Sheikh Mohammed issues proceedings at the High Court in London seeking the summary return of his two children with Princess Haya to Dubai.
May 22 – First High Court hearing before Mr Justice Moor – the media, who are unaware of the hearing or even the proceedings, do not attend.
July 16 – On the eve of a ‘scoping hearing’ to consider media issues before Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the High Court, Princess Haya issues applications to make the children wards of court, for a forced marriage protection order and for a non-molestation order.
July 17 – Three journalists attend and lawyers for Sheikh Mohammed apply for them to be excluded. Sir Andrew says the hearing is relatively short while those in court ‘simply scope out what lies before us’ and to consider what information, if any, should be given to the media. The judge adds that the parties will issue a short statement explaining the nature of the proceedings.
July 18 – With the permission of the court, the parties release the following statement: ‘The parties to these proceedings are HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein. These proceedings are concerned with the welfare of the two children of their marriage and do not concern divorce or finances.’
July 30 – At a hearing to work out issues, including the question of media reporting and to how to proceed to a final hearing to determine the welfare issues, Sir Andrew allows the media to report that Sheikh Mohammed has applied for the summary return of the children to Dubai, and that Princess Haya has applied for the children to be made wards of court, for a non-molestation order and a forced marriage protection order.
November 12-13 – Sir Andrew conducts a hearing to make findings of fact in relation to Princess Haya’s allegations against Sheikh Mohammed.
December 11 – The judge delivers his ruling on the fact-finding hearing. However, strict reporting restrictions preventing its publication remain in force.
January 17, 2020 – The judge delivers a ruling on a series of ‘assurances and waivers’ given by Sheikh Mohammed to Princess Haya. He also conducts a hearing to determine whether his earlier rulings should be made public.
January 27 – Sir Andrew concludes that his earlier rulings should be published, but the publication is postponed pending a Court of Appeal challenge by Sheikh Mohammed to this decision.
February 26 – The Court of Appeal hears Sheikh Mohammed’s challenge.
February 28 – Three leading judges dismiss his appeal and refuse to grant him permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. The stay on publication remains in force to give the father chance to make a fresh challenge to the Supreme Court.
March 5 – The Supreme Court announces that it has refused permission to appeal and all previous rulings are made public.
The judge’s conclusions are that Princess Haya was subjected to a sustained campaign of fear and intimidation by her former husband. He also finds that Shamsa and Latifa were abducted on their father’s orders.
February 16, 2021 – New videos come to light in which Latifa, speaking from a ‘villa jail’, describes how her father’s henchmen foiled her escape attempt and says she is being held ‘hostage’