Footage shows Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa rehearsing James Bond-style scuba escape from royal home that became a ‘gilded prison’
Sheikha Latifa, 33, the daughter of the Emirate’s billionaire ruler, attempted to flee her “gilded prison” with the help of a former French spy in March.
She made allegations of abuse against her father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in a video which has been widely shared in the UAE.
But Latifa was snatched from a yacht by commandos 40 miles off the coast of India and returned to Dubai “kicking and screaming for her life.”
She has not been seen publicly since.
Footage of the princess training for her escape in her family’s swimming pool on February 12 has emerged, reports Sky News.
The video was filmed by Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen, her Finnish martial arts teacher, who also joined her on the daring mission – first sneaking into neighbouring Oman before sailing to India.
Tiina told Sky News: “At this point the plan for Latifa's escape was still for her to dive using a rebreather, diving gear, dive computer and an underwater scooter from UAE to Oman crossing the border…a distance of nearly 10 km underwater.
"Training was a problem. One time we managed to go to her uncle's beach house to practise but visibility was so bad that she couldn't try out all the gear simultaneously.
"This time I was allowed to go inside her compound to 'exercise' but actually the plan was to test the gear."
Tiina said they decided to abandon this escape plan after encountering too many problems.
According to friends, Latifa saved up £315,000 and contacted Hervé Jaubert, a former French spy who she learned had escaped Dubai authorities by boat after putting on a burqa and then scuba diving.
She contacted him and by the end of 2017 they hatched a plan.
Together with Tiina she drove over the border to Oman where via dinghy and then jet skies they boarded Mr Jaubert's 100ft yacht called Nostromo.
But after a week at sea on the Indian Ocean, Mr Jaubert claims they were spotted and monitored by reconnaissance planes.
Then off Goa they were boarded by what appeared to be crew from the Indian coastguard.
The runaway princess was then dragged off the yacht by what were believed to have been commandos and has not been heard of since, although it is believed she may have been hauled back to Dubai.
Ms Jauhiainen said she watched her friend being dragged away "kicking and screaming for her life".
Her daring escape is the subject of a BBC documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of a Missing Princess.
In this Mr Jaubert said: “She said she preferred to be killed on the boat rather than going back to Dubai.
“I don’t even know where she is. I have the gravest concern.”
The princess laid out the reasons why she wanted to flee in a YouTube video.
She alleged her family had imprisoned and tortured her and she now wanted to escape the clutches of her father.
She said: “What I hope for after I leave is that I get my passport and I have freedom of choice in my life.
“I am feeling positive about the future. It’s a start of an adventure. It is a start of my claiming my life, my freedom, freedom of choice.
“I don’t expect it to be easy. Nothing is easy. But I expect it to be the start of a new chapter in my life – one where I have some voice, where I don’t have to be silenced and I can talk about myself.
“I don’t know how I will feel just waking up in the morning and thinking ‘I can do whatever I want today'.
“It will be such a new different feeling.”
An official statement from the Dubai Ruler’s Court insisted that the princess is "safe" back home in the UAE.
The the statement also accused French spy Jaubert of demanding a $100million "ransom" shortly after Latifa fled the country.
It read: "We are aware and deeply saddened by the continued media speculation regarding Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum.
"This private family matter has caused significant upset and distress for all concerned, most of all Sheikha Latifa.
"Sheikha Latifa and Sheikha Shamsa are adored and cherished by their family.
"Unfortunately, Sheikha Latifa was vulnerable to exploitation primarily by Mr Herve Jaubert, a man with a criminal record.
"He and his accomplices demanded payment of a ransom of USD $100 million, shortly after Her Highness disappeared from Dubai, for her return.
"Her Highness Sheikha Latifa is now safe in Dubai.
"She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today, in privacy and peace, and to building a happy and stable future for her.
"We very much regret the decision of the BBC and PBS to broadcast a documentary intruding on Sheikha Latifa's privacy and that of her family which will cause inevitable harm and discomfort."
The statement also criticised the documentary's makers for "giving a platform" to former spy Jaubert while calling him the Frenchman a "convicted criminal".
The statement added: "We do not intend to make any further statements on this matter."
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