A British arms dealer at the centre of a bribery scandal was used as part of a prisoner swap that saw Dubai’s Princess Latifa seized by Indian forces and taken back to Dubai where she remains a ‘hostage’ of her billionaire father.
Christian Michel was extradited to India from Dubai just weeks after Latifa – the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed -was seized by Indian special forces off the coast of Goa in March 2018.
Latifa was making a daring escape attempt from the clutches of her father who she accuses of ‘repressive control’.
She has made two attempts to escape from Dubai, one in 2002 and one in 2018, and says she is now being held captive by her father and has been threatened with being shot unless she cooperates.
Her sister Shamsa also tried to escape Dubai when she was 19 in 2000 because she was angry her father wouldn’t let her go to university and disgusted by Dubai’s human rights record. But she was also captured by men working for her father in England and returned to Dubai.
The United Nations has now officially linked the extradition to Latifa’s capture and called for Michel, who is accused of accepting a £40million bribe to sell British-made helicopters to India, to be released.
A report by the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention – which says the charges against Michel are politically motivated – does not mention Latifa by name.
But in its investigation into Michel’s detention, it says: ‘Mr Michel was told that his extradition was in exchange for the earlier seizure and return of a high-profile detainee to Dubai, despite the detainee’s plea for asylum by Indian forces which intercepted the detainee’s yacht in international waters off the coast of Goa in March 2018’
Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in an Indian corruption scandal, is believed to have been extradited from Dubai in exchange for India’s help in recapturing a runaway princess
Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, resurfaced this month in a series of videos smuggled out of captivity describing herself as being held ‘hostage’ by her father
Timeline: Dubai’s ruler, and his ‘abducted’ princess daughters
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.
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. Tiina travels to the Philippines to meet a French former spy and naval officer, Herve Jaubert.
February 24, 2018: Latifa and Tiina escape by driving to Oman, where they board 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, ncluding Indian special forces, who kidnap Latifa and take her back to the UAE.
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’
Latifa spoke of her terrifying capture in 2018 in a series of secretly recorded videos obtained by MailOnline and BBC Panorama.
The 35-year-old told how she was pinned to the ground and removed from the yacht that had been attempting to take her to a new life away from Dubai.
Latifa was later drugged and flown back to Dubai on the orders of her father Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum.
She has been held in a villa turned into a jail for almost three years while campaigners in the UK press for her release.
In one haunting video she described herself as a ‘hostage’ with little hope of ever being set free.
The publication of the UN report will increase pressure on the Dubai authorities to act on Latifa.
Despite being asked for ‘proof of life’ they have refused to say what has happened to the runaway Princess and simply say she is being cared for her family.
India has never commented on its role in seizing Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhianen from the yacht Nostromo eight days into their escape bid.
Emirati security forces were able to locate the yacht from a GPS receiver on the yacht and asked the Indian government to help.
It is thought that Indian special forces who led the raid were told Latifa had been kidnapped.
Her pleas that she was seeking political asylum were ignored and she was taken by force.
Six months after the incident Michel, who had been living in Dubai, was extradited to India.
A previous extradition request by India had been rejected by the Dubai courts after Indian authorities failed to produce any ‘serious’ evidence of corruption.
Michel is accused of bribing and criminally conspiring with Indian officials to win a contract on behalf of British helicopter manufacturer Augusta Westland for 12 choppers in 2010.
The new fleet of helicopters was to be used by the President of India and other Government ministers.
The 56-year-old is alleged to have received £41million in kickbacks for securing the deal. High-ranking Indian politicians have been implicated in the bribery scandal.
Since his extradition Michel complained he has been tortured by being subjected to repeated interrogations.
He has appealed to Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab for help in securing his release.
In its 16-page investigation into the events surrounding Michel’s extradition the UN working group, who report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was no legal basis for detention and the charges he faces are politically motivated.
A diagram showing Latifa’s daring escape plan from the seas around the United Arab Emirates
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day in 2017 with his estranged wife Princess Haya, left. The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed, right
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