The man reported to be missing with a runaway princess daughter of Dubai’s ruler is an ex-spy who alleges to have previously escaped the country wearing scuba gear under a burka.
Sheikah Latifa Mohammed Al Maktoum – who goes by Latifa – is reportedly missing off the coast of Goa, in India, with American national Jean-Pierre Herve Jaubert, a former French intelligence agent and author.
In footage released by her United States-based lawyer, the 33-year-old said she escaped the UAE because she does not have the freedom to live her own life as the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
In the 40-minute video, she claims she has been “imprisoned, tortured, beaten and censored” throughout her life.
According to Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, a legal firm helping people having problems in the UAE or abroad, the princess is understood to be hiding on a yacht with Jaubert and an unnamed British friend.
It is not known how Latifa and Jaubert came to know one another.
Latifa first made contact with Ms Stirling on February 26, but has not been heard from since March 4, when she made a frantic distress call over the messaging service WhatsApp.
Jaubert, famous for his book ‘Escape from Dubai’, is a former French navy officer and marine engineer, who operated as a secret agent for the DGSE [the French secret service] until 1993, when he moved to Florida where he set up a company to build and operate recreational submarines.
In 2004, businessman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem visited Jaubert’s factory in Florida and invited him to move his firm to UAE.
Jaubert accepted and bin Sulayem put him in charge of a new subsidiary of Dubai World, an investment company that manages and supervises projects for the Government of Dubai.
There, Jaubert set up a submarine manufacturing company with a factory, which after two years started making tourist submarines and superfast boats.
But at some point, his firm ran into difficulties.
Accounts differ as to what happened but Dubai World and Dubai’s police accused him of embezzlement while Jaubert said the country’s system was corrupt.
According to reports, Jaubert went undercover and escaped the country in May 2008.
The Daily Telegraph reports he dressed in scuba diving gear and covered up like an Arabic woman in order to flee.
In his book, Jaubert claims he slid into the sea after sneaking out of a hotel in the get-up.
He says he used a dinghy to reach his destination – a sailing boat, crewed by a fellow former French spy, that was waiting just outside UAE territorial waters.
Latifa claims to be one of 30 children of Sheikh Mohammed, who has six wives.
She released her claims in a video from her hideout.
But Detained in Dubai says she has since issued a distress message followed by a “panicked and frightened” phone call.
The charity said she rang them on March 4 and said: “Please help. There are men outside. I hear gunshots and I am hiding with my friend.”
A Whatsapp message from Latifa added: “Please help. I don’t know what’s happening.”
Latifa claims she has not been allowed to leave Dubai since 2000, is not allowed to drive and has her movements monitored round the clock.
She says she has to adhere to a strict curfew and does not have the freedom others enjoy in the country that is one of he most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Her father, the 68-year-old patriarch, is on close speaking terms with the Queen over their shared passion for horse racing and meet at Royal Ascot each year.
But while he is well known on the horse racing circuit, his family life in Dubai is a closely-guarded secret.
Latifa says she is the daughter of one of the less well-known wives of the Sheikh.
She says she has two other sisters and is the third daughter of the Sheikh that he has named Latifa.
She does not have a public profile and since allegedly fleeing the country her social media accounts have been shut down.