UAE ruler Sheikh Maktoum appears at desert races after High Court case

Billionaire Dubai ruler Sheikh Maktoum appears at desert races as he is seen for first time since his bid to kidnap children and terrorise ex-wife was revealed in High Court

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 70, was at Meydan track in Dubai
  • This follows a High Court ruling that he kidnapped two runaway daughters 
  • He was also accused of harassing and terrorising his wife Princess Haya, 45

Dubai’s billionaire ruler appeared at desert races in the UAE today for the first time since allegations that he abducted runaway daughters were made public this week.

The High Court in London ruled that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 70, had kidnapped Princesses Shamsa and Latifa in 2000 and 2018.

He was also found to have conducted a vicious campaign of harassment against his youngest wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 45, who fled the UAE to London last year in fear of her life, as well as those of their children Jalila, 12, and Zayed, eight.

The Sheikh’s bid to have his son and daughter returned to him backfired, with him losing his children, his wife, and his international standing.  

Pictured: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, UAE

But none of this seems to have prevented the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE enjoying the races at the Meydan track in Dubai.  

Sheikh Maktoum was photographed in the paddocks alongside jockeys Christophe Soumillon, Harry Bentley, Mickael Barzalona and James Doyle Meydan. 

His appearance at the grandstand, which is over one mile in length and can house 60,000 spectators, follows immense reputational humiliation for the UAE ruler.  

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, published his breathtaking findings this week after a gruelling 10-month legal case.

Pictured: The Sheikh in the paddocks with jockeys Christophe Soumillon, Harry Bentley, Mickael Barzalona and James Doyle Meydan, March 7, 2020

Pictured: Sheikh Maktoum alongside his youngest wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, at Epsom Derby festival at Epsom Downs on June 3, 2017

Pictured: Sheikh Maktoum shaking hands with the Queen at Ascot racecourse alongside his ex-wife Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein, June 2016

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: the ‘modernising Sheikh’ accused by human-rights activists of ‘torturing political dissidents by electrocution’ and ‘spying’ – as well as ‘running secret detention camps in war-torn Yemen’

Pictured: Sheikh Mohammed with his son Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and daughter Sheikha Al Jalila during Day One of Royal Ascot

Sheikh Maktoum is Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. Since his accession in 2006, he has undertaken sweeping reforms in the UAE’s Government, and has been held responsible for turning Dubai into a wealthy and global mega city. 

The sheikh trained in the military before being appointed to head of the Dubai Police Force and Dubai Defence Force, and was the UAE’s first defence minister in December 1971. In January 1995, he was pronounced Crown Prince by his elder brother Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and embarked upon a policy of tackling Government corruption that led to the arrest, charging, and unusual public ‘naming and shaming’ of 14 officials, including six officers. 

After around one decade of acting as the UAE’s de facto ruler, he became Vice President in January 2006, and Prime Minister of the UAE that February. He has created and encouraged the growth of numerous Dubai businesses and economic assets, including Dubai World, Dubai Holding, and Emirates flight. 

Sheikh Maktoum’s rule has been mired in controversy. Allegations concerning the abduction of two of his children – princesses Shamsa and Latifa – have been brought to the forefront during the high-profile High Court case involving his wife Princess Haya, who fled Dubai in 2019.

He has come under criticism by human-rights groups for alleged infractions, presiding as he does over a judicial system which mandates the execution of criminals by firing squad, hanging, or stoning. Sentencing for flogging – a legal punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex, and alcohol consumption – ranges between 80 and 200 lashes. Apostasy from Islam and homosexuality are a crimes punishable by death, while women in the country require permission from male guardians to marry and remarry. 

It is not permitted to be critical of the UAE Government, royal families, officials, and police, in any way. Attempts to demonstrate in public are met with resistance. Human Rights Watch has accused the UAE regime of violating rights to freedom of expression, while US intelligence identified that the UAE had developed its own messaging app – to be used for spying purposes.

The UAE Government has also been accused of kidnapping, detaining, and torturing political opponents and expats, often to extract forced confessions of alleged plots to overthrow the regime. For instance, during the Arab Spring in 2011, at least 100 activists were jailed and tortured. 

The Arab Organisation of Human Rights listed 16 different methods of torture used by the UAE Government, including electrocution. Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused the UAE of running secret prisons in Yemen where prisoners are forcibly disappeared and tortured.

The judge ruled that Sheikh Maktoum, who is worth an estimated £9billion and is one of Britain’s closest Middle East allies, was responsible for the abduction of both Shamsa in August 2000, and Latifa off the coast of India in March 2018. 

Sir Andrew’s astonishing ruling has been publicly embarrassing for the Sheikh, who has now been ditched by – among others – Her Majesty The Queen.

For decades, the Queen and the Sheikh have been photographed together in public, with the UK monarch even inviting him to enjoy Ascot from the Royal Box.

But the decision to dodge the 70-year-old ruler could have a lasting effect on the character and conduct of British relations with the UAE.  

Rumours of the royal snub were first reported in The Times. 

Shamsa: the princess who escaped her father’s Surrey mansion in the family’s Range Rover before being ‘abducted on the streets of Cambridge’ and flown back to UAE 

Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum, 38, was in the UK on holiday with her extended family at their Longcross estate near Chobham in Surrey in 2000.

In a bid to better her future and escape her life in Dubai – restricted as it is by incorporated elements of sharia, or Islamic Law – the princess used this opportunity to dodge guards and flee from her family in mid-July.

Shamsa is believed to have driven a black Range Rover to the edge of the vast estate, where the Emirati ruler had installed his family, before dumping it and slipping through an open gate onto Chobham Common. She stayed with her friends for six weeks in London before being found out by her family. 

That August, the princess was apparently abducted in Cambridge by the Sheikh’s staff while walking out of a bar and taken to an airport in southeast England, before being flown back to Dubai on a private jet. 

In March 2001, after having been contacted by a British solicitor who had spoken to Shamsa, Cambridgeshire Police began investigating the incident. During enquiries, people close to Shamsa in the UK substantiated her story of the escape, and the matter was even raised in Parliament.  However, the police investigation stalled when they ran into a denial of access to Shamsa by Dubai authorities and non-cooperation of the Longcross estate staff. 

Little is known about Shamsa’s circumstances during the past two decades, save for Latifa’s account in her video that she is kept confined to one room and constantly supervised by nurses and a psychiatrist. She is given regular medication which Latifa asserts is designed ‘to control her mind’. 

Today, the judge said that ‘the allegation that Shamsa has been deprived of her liberty for much if not all of the past two decades, living in circumstances as described by Latifa, is, I find, proved.’

Pictured: The Supreme Court in Westminster refused to hear Sheikh Al Maktoum’s appeal 

Latifa: the princess who was ‘beaten and tortured’ after her first abortive escape, aged 16, and was ‘captured by UAE-Indian agents’ 50miles off the coast of Goa 

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, one of the Sheikh’s children by six different wives, spent seven years plotting her escape from caged luxury. 

The princess, 33, revealed in a video message that she had first attempted fleeing Dubai aged 16, but was apparently captured by her father’s staff at the border, imprisoned for three years, beaten, and tortured. 

She first reached out to French businessman and former navy officer Jean-Pierre Hervé Jaubert, 62, at his home in the Philippines after reading how he had fled from Dubai in 2008 by dressing up in a burka to fool border agents.

Latifa is believed to have saved as much as £315,000 to pay for her escape, and had bemoaned her restricted life, trapped as she felt by her powerful father and the oppressive nature of predominantly-Islamic UAE society.

The princess met Finnish martial artist Tiina Jauhiainen in 2014, and the two became close friends – so much so, in fact, that both plotted Latifa’s escape. 

In March 2018, Latifa, who changed her clothes and sunglasses, drove with Tiina across the UAE border to Oman, before setting out to sea. The pair, who had planned to seek political asylum in the US, faced a 26mile-trip by boat and jet ski out to international waters to meet Jaubert.  By sailing under a US flag, they hoped that any interception by UAE agents would cause an international incident. The group planned to head for Goa in India. 

After a week at sea, Jaubert claims they were being tracked by reconnaissance planes and were intercepted by Indian agents 50miles off the coast of Goa. Jaubert is thought to have survived torture.

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