A French ex-spy who helped a princess plot her escape from Dubai has revealed the pair spent seven years planning – only for the attempt to end in failure.
Hervé Jaubert, a former Navy officer who escaped from Dubai himself after running foul of the authorities, also disclosed messages from Princess Latifa in which she explained her plight in the UAE and said she would ‘rather die’ than go back.
Latifa fled the country in February in an attempt to escape strict controls placed on her life by her father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, and made it to within 30 miles of the Indian coast on board a yacht before being captured.
She has not been seen or heard from since.
Herve Jaubert, a French ex-spy who tried to help Princess Latifa escape from Dubai, has revealed they plotted the attempt for seven years, starting in 2011
During that time they messaged each other every two or three days, including one message in which Latifa said: ‘I have been mistreated all of my life’
Jaubert told new BBC documentary Escape From Dubai – which was previewed by The Guardian – that Latifa first contacted him 2011 after hearing about his own escape attempt and asked for help getting away.
In one email explaining her plight, she told Jaubert: ‘I’ve been mistreated and oppressed all of my life.
‘Women are treated like subhumans. My father … can’t continue to do what he’s been doing to us all.’
At first he struggled to believe her story because Latifa is the daughter of one of the Sheikh’s lesser-known wives – he has six in total – and had no public profile prior to her escape attempt.
But she eventually persuaded him of her credentials and then the pair swapped messages every two or three days for a period of several years.
In 2014 the final plan began taking shape when Latifa met Tiina Jauhiainen who came to the palace to teach her capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.
Tiina Jauhiainem, a Brazilian martial arts instructor brought in to teach Latifa in 2014, told of how she jumped at the opportunity to help her escape
Ms Jauhiainem (right) said that after the attempt failed she was taken to jail in UAE where she was beaten and threatened with death, while Latifa (left) vanished
Jauhiainen was quickly co-opted into the plans, saying that she agreed to take part without hesitation, and flew to meet Jaubert several times to pin down details.
The trio would not be together until the day of the escape itself, when Latifa and Jauhiainen went for an early breakfast – a routine they established years before to dull the suspicions of guards – before changing their clothes and getting into a car.
From the UAE they drove overland into Oman and then to the coast, where they used a combination of jet skis and dinghies to reach a yacht where Jaubert was waiting.
Before she escaped, Latifa said that if she failed she would likely be taken back to the kingdom and drugged, or else killed
Once on board the yacht they set sail for Goa, in India, where Latifa would claim political asylum in the hopes of making a better life in America.
Jaubert revealed that, while on their voyage, Latifa confided to him that ‘she preferred to be killed on the boat rather than going back to Dubai.’
But just 30 miles from the coast their yacht was overtaken by armed men who blindfolded and tied up Jaubert and Jauhiainen, then seized Latifa.
All three were taken back to the UAE, where Jaubert and Jauhiainen say they were beaten, threatened with death, starved and dehydrated.
The pair were interrogated for up to 20 hours a day before finally being released when MailOnline broke Latifa’s story because authorities could no longer keep their detention a secret.
Latifa had sent her story to multiple news outlets and organisations while on board the yacht, but details were slow to leak out because of the extraordinary nature of the allegations.
While Latifa has not been see or heard from since, the key to her fate perhaps lies in a story she once told about her older sister, who also tried to flee the family while they were on holiday in Sussex, England.
After going missing for two months she was eventually seized in Cambridge and spirited back to the UAE, Latifa claimed.
Latifa has not been heard from or seen since her failed escape, though Dubai Government sources confirmed she was back in the country ‘with her family’ and ‘doing excellent’
Ms Jauhiainen (right) released images of herself with Latifa (left) in September in the hopes of forcing the UAE to release her
There, she was kept in a medical prison – drugged to stop her from protesting and escorted everywhere she goes by a team of nurses.
Latifa said she feared being killed or kept in the same state if her escape failed.
The BBC also interviewed three Filipino yacht crew for their documentary.
Amnesty has previously called on the United Arab Emirates to respect Princess Latifa’s right to be allowed to leave the country.
In a statement the human rights organisation called on the UAE’s international allies to pressure the Government of Dubai to cease holding the Princess.
The United Nations are set to discuss the enforced disappearance of the Princess next week in Geneva where they are expected to heavily criticise the Dubai authorities for their silence on the Princess whereabouts.
A spokesman for Amnesty said: ‘Sheikha Latifa has been held incommunicado in an undisclosed location by the UAE.
‘Amnesty International considers this incident to have entailed multiple crimes under international law by both India and UAE, including arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance.
‘The national Government of the UAE – a federal state of which Dubai is a constituent member – should act to ensure that Dubai respects its citizens’ human rights.’
UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum is a powerful international figure who is on speaking terms with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth through a shared interest in horse racing
MailOnline told how the Princess left Dubai claiming she had been mistreated and had restrictions imposed on her by her father. Pictured: Her national identity card
Dubai Government sources only confirmed she was back in the country and that she was ‘with her family’ and ‘doing excellent’.
But the NGO Detained in Dubai, who have led the campaign for her release, fear she might never be seen again unless international pressure can be brought on the Arab kingdom.
‘It is nine months since anyone outside of Dubai has seen or heard from Princess Latifa, said David Haigh from Detained in Dubai.
‘We do not know if she is even alive still. We are pleased that Amnesty has taken up her case and we are confident that the United Nations working party on enforced disappearance will have something to say next week when they discuss the case.’
MailOnline told how the Princess left Dubai claiming she had been mistreated and had restrictions imposed on her by her father.
In a leaked video she said she was not allowed to leave the country and was accompanied by a minder whenever she went out.
She also expressed fears that she would be silenced, saying: ‘I’m making this video because it could be the last video I make.’
Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess will air Thursday on BBC2 at 9pm