UK court details role of Indian Coast Guard in capture of Dubai princess by her father

Shubhajit Roy
UK court details role of Indian Coast Guard in capture of Dubai princess by her father

Princess Latifa was captured in 2018

In 2018, armed Indian Coast Guard forces carried out a sea-borne assault to capture Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, off the Indian coast and returned her to her father in the UAE, a British family court has said in its judgment involving the Dubai ruler’s family.

In April 2019, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the UAE emir’s second wife, fled to London with her 12-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. A month later, the emir began legal action in the UK, seeking the return of the children. During these legal proceedings, one of the allegations made by Princess Haya was that the Sheikh had masterminded the abduction of two of his eldest daughters from another marriage, Sheikha Shamsa and Sheikha Latifa.

The fact-finding judgment by the British court, delivered on December 11 last year but made public only on March 5, underlined the Dubai ruler’s diplomatic muscle with the Indian government.

This is the first authoritative account of Indian involvement in Princess Latifa’s capture. There was no official response from the Indian government to the verdict by the British court.

The revelations in the British court judgment come in the backdrop of increased law enforcement and counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the UAE in the last few years.

In his 34-page judgment, UK Judge Andrew McFarlane mentions India’s role at least 17 times.

While Shamsa, the emir’s elder daughter, had been allegedly abducted from the UK in August 2000, he apparently “orchestrated the forcible return” of Latifa twice — once in 2002 from Oman and then from near the coast of India in 2018.

The court relied on Tiina Jauhiainen — identified as TJ in the verdict — a Finnish fitness instructor, who gave lessons to Latifa in the Brazilian martial arts form of “capoeira” in 2010 and went on to become a close confidant. They took the help of a Frenchman, Herve Jaubert (referred to as HJ), to make plans for the escape.

According to the account, Latifa and TJ escaped from Dubai at 7 am on February 24, 2018.

“Latifa and TJ left downtown Dubai at 7 am and drove over the border into Oman where a mutual friend met them with a dinghy. The three then set off with the aim of travelling some sixteen or more miles out to sea. The weather on that day was not good... HJ and another crew member... travelled to meet them... on two jet skis. Latifa and TJ transferred to the jet skis and their mutual friend returned to the shore in the dinghy. It was not until around 7 pm that Latifa and TJ reached the yacht, the Nostromo,” the judgment said.

“After six days or so, they became aware of another boat shadowing their passage some miles behind,” it said.

“During the night of 4 March 2018, when the Nostromo... was some thirty miles off Goa... it was... boarded by a substantial number of Indian special forces. Smoke grenades or gas, together with gunshots soon led to the crew and passengers being subdued... At one stage, after TJ had been dragged to the deck with her hands tied behind her back, she saw Latifa lying face down on the floor with her hands similarly bound. TJ says that the Indian servicemen kept shouting “who is Latifa” over and over again.

The verdict quotes TJ to say how each member of the crew was “badly treated by the Indian forces”. “TJ records that she learnt that the UAE soldiers had been flown to Mumbai from the UAE, picked up by Indian coastguard helicopter and then taken in Indian coastguard boats for transit to the Nostromo,” it said.