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One night when Latifa and Tina were on board the yacht Nostromo, a few days after their escape from Dubai, the sea grew calmer. The two of them were out on deck. They had on hoodies against the chill, and they were looking at the sky.


You can see all the stars. It was beautiful. You could obviously see the light on the waves as well. So it was really, really beautiful.


And Latifa suggested that they stay out there all night instead of going down to their cabin.


She wanted to sleep outside on the top deck of the boat. And she was like, Oh, I want to be doing things like this in the future as well.


Tina told her, Oh, come on, it's cold. It'll be more comfortable in our beds. You'll have plenty of opportunities to do things like this now. So they went down to their cabin. It sounds like maybe you regret that a bit now. Is that something that- Yeah, a little bit.


I was like, Yes, I should have done it because obviously it's the same like anything in life. Sometimes certain opportunities just come once. I don't like just to do it rather than regret not having done something right.


You're listening to the Runaway Princesses from In the Dark and the New Yorker. It's a story of why women in Dubai's royal family keep trying to run away and what happens to them when they do. I'm Madelyne Baron. This is episode 3, A Nice Lunch. My colleague, Heidi Blake, obtained text and emails sent by the band of conspirators on board Nostromo as they were crossing the Arabian Sea on their way to India, and she pieced together their story. When we left off last episode, it was the end of the day Latifa made her escape. She'd been traveling since dawn. She'd been hidden in a car trunk. She and Tina had been tossed around in a dingy in huge waves. They'd been picked up by jet skis, and they'd finally reached the yacht. Heidi, tell me about that moment when they finally climb on board.


They reached the boat at sunset, and Tina told me that once they'd clambered aboard, they hugged each other, but they were just too exhausted and nauseated to celebrate. Tina remembers that she took a shower because she was soaked in sea water, so was Latifa. But after that, she was just knocked sideways by a migraine, and Latifa was violently seasick for the first couple of days.


Who else is on the boat with them, apart from Hervé?


There's a small Filipino crew, but it's not a luxury cruise. Tina said that when she and Latifa were well enough to come out of their cabin, they found that Hervé's boat was filthy. There were cockroaches in the food suppliers, and Tina said they mostly lived on porridge.


I remember cooking one day. We had boiled potatoes with Heinz beans. I was really happy about it because at least it was something that wasn't cereal.


I think at first, at least, they were pretty exuberant. Latifa texted a friend from aboard the boat saying, I really feel so free now. Walking target, yes, but totally free. She also wrote, Farewell messages to her mother and her siblings, and she posted a triumphant message on Instagram saying, I have escaped UAE after being trapped for 18 years.


Why is she doing this at this point? She's not actually... I mean, she's still on the boat. She's still in the middle of her escape.


I know. I had exactly the same thought. Isn't this really risky? Isn't this the thing that Shamsa did that got her into trouble? Right. But it seems like Latifa figured that her family were going to know she was gone as soon as she missed her curfew, which is at 10:00 PM. She wanted to make clear that she hadn't been kidnapped, that she'd left Dubai of her own free will, and that they should just let her go. There was no need to mount some rescue effort. But soon after they set out, Aver did something that seriously complicated that picture. He contacted a lawyer in Florida and asked her to draw up a settlement agreement demanding $300 million from Sheik Muhammad on Latifa's behalf. Now, Latifa didn't have a bank account, so Aver told the lawyer that the money should be transferred to his account in the Philippines, and he promised that he would split it evenly with Latifa and Tina.


Was Latifa on board with this?


Well, Herve said that actually the settlement had been her idea and that his share of $100 million was his payment for helping her escape. He really denies that he pressured Latifa in any way. But Latifa told Tina that Herve's mind seemed to be always on money and profit, and she'd gone along with the plan just to appease him, knowing that her Her mother would never pay anyway, so it didn't really matter.


They're sending all these messages from onboard, posting on Instagram, definitely not trying to slip away quietly.


No. In fact, they wanted publicity. Herve and Latifa were also trying to reach journalists as Latifa was making her escape. Irvay had promised to use his contacts in the international media to publicize her story so that the world would be watching if her father tried to retaliate. When they were finally on board Nostromo, he'd reached out to people he said he at the BBC and the Associated Press, but he'd got no reply. Instead, Herve put Latifa in touch with a group called Detained in Dubai. They advocate for people who've run into trouble with the law in the Emirates, and he'd worked with them before. Latifa looked them up from on board the yacht, and Tina said she was dismayed when she saw that the group seemed to have a low profile. They had hardly any Facebook followers, she said. But she got in touch.


Hello, my name is Latifa, Mohamed bin Rasha Zhaid Al-Maktoum. My birthday I have copies of audio messages Latifa sent to detained in Dubai from on board the boat just a few days after setting sail.


She tells them about Shamza and how she decided that the only way to help her was to escape.


Now I left. I'm out of the UAE, but I'm not out of danger at all. I'm still far from being safe. I think some publication would be good. I've already contacted some major newspapers. I don't I don't know what else to say, really. I just hope it all goes okay because there's so many people involved who are helping me to get out. I hope everybody just ends up okay.


Latifa's messages landed in the inbox of detained in Dubai's CEO, Rada Sterling.


She told me that she had suffered years of abuse, that she wanted to be free, and that she had gone to great lengths to make her way out of the UAE. Latifa started asking me whether I can put this in the media as soon as possible because she thought that that would protect her.


But Rada said that first they had to figure out whether this whole thing was a hoax. It sounded like the email you get from a scammer who claims to be a foreign prince.


Because it was such a convoluted story. It's the first time that I'd heard a daughter of a ruler complain about their own abuse. I think myself, like most other people, would assume that he at least treats his family quite well, that he at least treats his daughters well. It seemed It's almost unbelievable to me.


I should add that Sheik Mohamed denies abusing his daughters. Rada knew the media wouldn't print anything without some evidence. Detained in Dubai, set about verifying that Latifa was who she said she was. By then, Latifa was getting more and more uneasy about how her escape was going. She'd had texts from friends back in Dubai who were saying that they'd been rounded up and questioned about her disappearance. Then they heard that Christian, Tina's friend who'd taken them out to sea in the dingy, had been arrested.


The concern obviously arised because Christian was caught. Like, what is he going to tell him? Is he going to tell what our plan is? That's here, not what our plan is.


There were other ominous signs. A week into the voyage, Hervé spotted another ship, apparently tailing them, and a small plane was circling overhead. Then Tina says that Hervé told them he was running low on fuel.


He started to us a little bit later, after a couple of days, that, Oh, I'm trying to arrange my friend to do the fueling, and we're both like, What?


How do you run out of fuel in a situation like this? I mean, this has been a plot that has been literally years in the making, and then they just run out of fuel?


Well, it's a great question. When I asked Hervé about this, he insisted that he had enough fuel to reach the original destination, but now he was worried that they were going to have to change routes because it seemed like they were being followed. He also, by the way, insisted that his boat was immaculate and that cockroaches are just an inevitable part of seafaring. But in any case, after a week at sea when they were 30 miles off the Coast of India, Herve sent a text to Rada saying, I am running out. He said that in a couple of days, his petrol tank would be empty. Tina said that Latifa was growing increasingly silent.


She was really quiet. I think it's a lot to do with the fact that she was really annoyed with Herve, and she was getting increasingly nervous about the situation.


All of them were afraid that Latifa had been located. Herve texted Rada, They will kill her. On March fourth, about a week after they left Oman, Tina and Latifa went down to their cabin to get ready for bed.


We're like, Okay, let's get some sleep. It was quite late. Then I think if I was rushing her seas. That's when we start hearing those really loud sounds, some big boots, as if there's more people, loud noises.


The two women heard something that sounded like gunshots and then heavy boots overhead. Latifa said to Tina, They found me. Latifa was trying to send messages asking for help, but then the WiFi was cut off. The two women locked themselves in the bathroom and they were hugging each other. Latifa kept saying she was sorry, and then they started smelling smoke.


They kept in a started feeling of some a smoke, and it started coming into the bathroom as well from the vents. Then somebody was knocking on the door, and it was one of the Filipino crew members, and he said that the boat has been boarded. These people have guns, and He looked like he had seen a ghost. He was in a panic as well.


They put wet towels over their faces to block the smoke, and then they stumbled out of the bathroom. It was completely dark as they made their way up the stairs towards to the deck.


I was walking in the front and I was holding Latifa's hand. She was walking behind me, and she was like, Be careful, be careful. It was like halfway up the stairs when all those laser Their sides were pointing.


Tina said the red laser sights of guns spliced through the darkness in all directions. There was a pool of blood at the top of the stairs. She didn't know whose it was. Men in masks grabbed and dragged her to the front of the boat. They zip-tied her hands.


And they basically put me on the floor. And Latifa was there as well. Then they were threatening to shoot me and close your eyes and we should do.


She says someone told her to take her last breath.


And I was thinking, Yeah, that's it. This is the way my life is ending.


She says Latifa was yelling at the men to leave her friend alone. The commandos were yelling, Who is Latifa? Someone grabbed Latifa by the hair and yanked her head up. He showed her to someone else and said, Is this her? Latifa shouted over and over that she wanted asylum, but the men didn't listen.


Then she was taken away, kicking and screaming.


Latifa fought and fought. She was kicking and hitting and clinging to the gunnels, and she yelled out, Don't take me back. Just kill me now. Then Tina watched as they dragged her friend over the side of the boat, and Latifa was gone.


How did Sheik Mohamed manage to find them?


Well, He'd used every apparatus of state power to locate his daughter. His officials had rounded up Latifa's friends and her accomplices, and his intelligence agents had intercepted her communications from Nostromo. Then the UAE had got Interpol, the international police agency, to issue red notices for Latifa's accomplices, for Christian, and Irvay, and Tina. That's like an international arrest warrant, accusing them of kidnapping her. When the yacht was eventually located off the Coast of India, Sheik Muhammad called in a favor from a powerful ally. He spoke personally with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and they hashed out a deal. Modi wanted an arms dealer who was based in Dubai, and Sheik Mohamed agreed to extradite this guy in exchange for his daughter's capture. The The Indian government deployed boats, helicopters, and a team of armed commandos to storm Nostromo and carry Latifa away.


Wow. What happens to Irvay and Tina and the crew?


Well, they were all taken back to the UAE by sea, and Irvay was in really rough shape.


He was severely beaten up. He couldn't have conversation all the way when he was on the boat. His eyes were just rolling, and he was in some shock.


Tina says that when Evi did come to, he was terrified. He was sure he was going to be killed.


I was more, I don't know, sad that this plan had failed. That was the biggest concern for me, that it had all failed.


The trip took days, and Tina says as they traveled back over the ocean, she would just stare at the waves and cry. When they reached to buy, they were blindfolded and then locked up in separate cells. Tina didn't know where Latifa was or whether she was even still alive, and she couldn't call anyone. Her family had no idea where she was. There were no witnesses to her capture, no news about it. Everyone on board Nostromo had just vanished.


We'll be right back.


Rada Sterling, the head of detained in Dubai, was at home in Spain, still puzzling over the strange case of the runaway princess, when she received Latifa's SOS messages from aboard Nostromo.


She said, Oh, my God, I can hear gunshots. I can hear men outside. I don't know what's going on. Then suddenly, her phone, just a couple of minutes later, her phone got completely cut off, and none of my messages were getting through, and nothing came through to me.


Rada figured that if Latifa Latifa's father had sent men after her, then her captors probably had her phone. So she sent messages to it, hoping that they'd see them.


Along the lines of, we're aware of Latifa, we're aware of her visual bet, we know what's happening. If we don't get confirmation that she is alive and safe and well. We're immediately going to release this story to the world's media and make reports to the authorities. I hope that at least if they saw that and they were planning to execute them, they would cancel that plan because they realize, Okay, there's other people outside who know what's going on, so we're going to get exposed.


At the time, Rada was working with a lawyer named David Hague, who'd been imprisoned in Dubai himself. He'd been working for an investment fund there when he'd had a falling out with his bosses, and they'd accused him of fraud and slander. After that, he was held for two years in Dubai jails, where he said he was beaten and raped and forced to sign a document in Arabic that appeared to be a false confession. David lives in Cornwall now. He was driving me to his seafront cottage when he told me about the night that those SOS messages from Latifa came in. He said he and Rada didn't want to do anything public until they knew what had happened. For all they knew, the Nostromo might have been hit by pirates. If Latifa hadn't been captured by her father's men, they didn't want to give away where she was.


I remember waiting, thinking, What do we do now? Where are they? What have they done to them? Are they dead? Are they not dead? No one's going to believe this. What the hell do we do now?


Detained in Dubai filed a missing person's report with Scotland Yard, and they notified the Indian Coast Guard that a US-flagged yacht had vanished, but no authority would take up the case. Then detained in Dubai received an email from the lawyer in Florida that Latifa and Irvay had been in touch with from onboard Nostromo. It contained the video Latifa had recorded before she escaped. David Hague was at a birthday party on a cliftop in Cornwall when he got the message. The phone service was bad, and he left so that he could download the video.


Then when I get four bars or something, I stop and watch this video.


Hello. My name is Latifa Al-Maktoum. My father is the Prime Minister of UAE, and the ruler of Dubai. And if you are watching this video, either I'm dead or I'm in a very, very, very bad situation.


I know it's just like, Oh my God.


What do I talk about? Do I talk about all the murders? Do I talk about all the abuse I've seen?


It was basically evidence saying, My father and his men are very bad. They're after me. They've done these terrible things. Help.


They put me in prison and they tortured me. They told me that your father told us to beat you until we killed him. He's pure evil. There's nothing good in him. He's responsible for so many people. So all of this public image that he's trying to portray human rights is bullshit. There is no justice here. They don't care. Especially if you're a female, your life is so disposable.


I knew that what was there was dynamite.


He says he thought, This is a nuclear bomb.


But it was a nuclear bomb that would get her her freedom if she was still alive and would get justice if she wasn't.


The group released the video to the media, and they posted it on the internet.


We put it on YouTube, and it went around the world.


No one from Dubai's royal family said anything publicly in response to the video. But soon, Erwe and Tina and the Filipino crew members were released. Tina flew to her family's home in Finland. Erwe sailed Nostromo to Sri Lanka. Then the two of them made their way to London. Hi, everyone. They gave a press conference with detained in Dubai.


My name is Tina. Latifa is my best friend.


Tina was nervous, but she told her story in a steady voice. Place.


The reason I'm here today is because I want our story to be heard in order to Latifa get a chance for freedom.


She told the reporters about her friendship with Latifa, about the Kupuera lessons, about how at first Latifa had been so shy that her Capoeira nickname was Chimida, how she'd come out of her shell when she started skydiving, how Tina had come to love her.


Latifa is probably the kindest person I know. She always goes out of her way to help others, and she doesn't want to take any credit of the things that she does for others. She also comes across as very embarrassed of her family's wealth. She's very generous, though, very down to earth.


Tina told the story of the escape. She told how commandos had stormed Nostromo and how she'd been taken to Dubai and imprisoned and interrogated for hours at a time.


I was threatened with a death penalty, and in a better scenario, I would be looking at a life in prison. Basically, they didn't believe anything I said. They didn't believe that I didn't help Latifa because she was my friend. They thought I was after some monetary gain, and they also wanted to know which organization was behind this whole plan. In order to be released, I was forced to make a false confession and sign documents in Arabic and agree on a non-disclosure agreement.


Tina says after she was released, she got threatening phone calls. It sounded like the same guy who'd been interrogating her.


He basically reminded me that Sheik Muhammad can get me anywhere. I wasn't really safe anywhere if I would talk, if I would give any details about what happened to the press. After my release, when I first time saw the video that was obviously published and it was made in my apartment, that's where we recorded it. I felt very, very emotional, and I started to cry in front of my family. I realized then that I need to keep on fighting for her, and I wish everyone would do their best to really help Latifa to be free.


What they're saying is pretty shocking. Does this end up getting a lot of media attention?


Yeah, the story of the runaway princess and the French captain and the martial arts instructor ran in newspapers and on TV. They say she was snatched from this yacht by Emirati Special Forces off the Coast of India as she tried to make an extraordinary escape from her father and the city state he rules. But Tina and Herve's story was greeted with some skepticism. An Interpol Red Notice, issued in March at the UAE's request, partially confirms their story. But the warrant alleges that instead of escaping of her own free will, Princess Latifa kidnapped. The BBC cast some doubt on the credibility of Latifa's supporters. It even had a conspiracy theory that detained in Dubai could be getting money from Qatar, that this whole thing could be part of a standoff between those two countries. Could Princess Latifa have become a spawn in big power politics? The government of Dubai told us that for legal reasons, they were unable to comment on the details of the allegations, but they said that those making them had a track record of criminal activity. In spite of all this news coverage of Princess Latifa's capture, the UAE government still offered no response, no comment, no proof that Latifa was even alive.


Detained in Dubai reported her abduction to the United Nations, and then they worked with the BBC's investigative program, Panorama, to make a documentary about her escape. That program came out in December, nine months after Latifa disappeared. The mystery of the missing Princess. The documentary's release date coincided with Latifa's 33rd birthday. It included interviews with multiple people who said the princess had escaped of her own free will and had been violently captured by armed men sent by her father. I feel really bad because I was supposed to bring her to safety and to freedom.


And look what happened.


I don't even know where she is. I have The gravest concern regarding Latifa, that she might not even be alive.


No one's seen her, no one's heard from her. There's been no official response from the UAE at all. Not to us, not to the press, not to Amnesty International, not to Human Rights Watch, and significantly, not to United Nations, who have written to both the UAE and India. Nothing. Why would that be?


When the documentary was released, the Emirati government finally issued a public response. This was its first acknowledgement that the incident had even occurred. It said that Latifa had not tried to escape, but had been kidnapped by Hervé Jaubert, who had demanded a ransom of $300 million. The statement says, Her Heiness Sheaqa Latifa is now safe in Dubai. She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today in privacy and peace. But they issued no photos. There was no proof that Latifa was celebrating anything. None of her friends had heard any word from her. Representatives of the United Nations wrote to the UAE, demanding information about her whereabouts. Then, later that month, the UAE released three photos. There was Latifa sitting at a table with plates of food in front of her. Next to her was someone quite powerful, Mary Robinson.


Right, you wrote about this in your It's like strange scene where Latifa is pictured with Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland.


Yes, and the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Along with the photos, the UAE issued a statement. It says, At the request of the family, on 15th of December 2018, Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland, met with Her Honors, Sheikha Latifa in Dubai. Photographs taken during the afternoon they spent together have been shared with their consent. During her visit to Dubai, Mary Robinson was reassured that her Heiness Sheikha Latifa is receiving the necessary care and support she requires. The statement was met with some skepticism. Mary Robinson joins us now. Good morning.


Good morning.


A few days later, Mary Robinson made an appearance on BBC radio to promote her book about climate change. But the interviewer, Michelle Hussein, changed the subject. I want to ask you about some pictures that were released just in the last few days of you in Dubai with Sheikhha Latifa, one of the daughters of Dubai's ruler, who reportedly tried to escape abroad earlier this year and was forcibly returned.


Why were you seen with her?


How did that come about?


I was asked by Princess Haya, whom I've known for a long time, who's also- Mary Robinson said that she'd visited the family at the request of her friend, Princess Haya.


Princess Haya was Sheik Muhammad's sixth and youngest wife, Latifa's stepmother. She said that Haya had asked her for help with what she called a family dilemma.


The dilemma was that Latifa is vulnerable. She's troubled. She made a video that she now regrets.


Haya had them both over to lunch so that Mary Robinson could meet Latifa.


She's a very likable young woman but clearly troubled, clearly needs the medical care that she's receiving.


You can hear Mary Robinson trying to steer the interview back to her book about climate, and Michelle Hussein not having any of it.


We talked about climate, actually, because I had given a book, a copy of my Climate Book, Two Princess Haya.


I just want to ask you about what she said in her video, which was seen around the world, was that she was in prison for three years and tortured repeatedly on her return. Michelle Hussein questioned whether Mary Robinson can have made a realistic assessment of Latifa's welfare when the Princess was surrounded by the very family she had accused of imprison her.


I was able to assess the situation. She wasn't with her wider family. She was with Princess Haya and some of Princess Haya's younger family and two other people. It wasn't a big number. Princess Haya was married to her father. Yes, I was very aware of how troubled she appeared to be.


But also- Mary Robinson said Latifa chatted with high as young children, and they talked about skydiving.


And the future. We talked about climate change, and I mentioned that I would be back in Dubai in early March because my book is promoting it at the Emirates Litery Festival. I also sent a report. To those who are consented. Excuse me, I want to say this. I also sent a report that evening before to Michelle Bachelet, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Michelle Bachelet was Mary Robinson's successor at the UN. Mary Robinson says she assured the High Commissioner that Latifa was in the loving care of her family.


I think you have to bear in mind that this is a troubled young woman who has a serious medical situation. She's receiving psychiatric care, and they don't want her to endure any more publicity.


In later interviews, Robinson said that she'd been that Latifa suffered from bipolar disorder and that she didn't know how to talk with somebody who had that condition. So she didn't ask Latifa about her escape or what her life was like now. She said, I really didn't actually want to talk to her and increased the trauma, over a nice lunch. The photographs of the lunch were published in newspapers around the world. In the pictures, Robinson is smiling, but Latifa isn't. She looks dazed and pale, hunched over in a dark hoodie. She's not looking at the camera. Latifa's friends were relieved to see that she was alive, but she didn't look okay. And if she was okay, why hadn't they heard from her? The silence stretched on. Tina told me that she used to get a lot of messages on Facebook about Latifa. People would reach out to ask about her or to offer to help. There were hoaxes, people pretending to be Latifa. But one day, a year after Latifa's abduction, Tina got a message that seemed different.


It was like, Are you Tina? Then the security questions, like what did she give you as a birthday present on here, so on, so I just went like, Oh, my God.


Tina gave the person the right answers about the birthday present and Latifa's nicknames, and the sender wrote back, I'm sorry, I'm shaking now, Ms. Tina. I'm scared to help Ms. Latifa her, but she's very kind to me. And then the writer sent a photo of a letter from Latifa.


That's next time on The Runaway Princesses. The Runaway Princesses was written and produced by Katherine Winter and Heidi Blake. It was edited by Samara Freemark, Willing Davidson, and me, Madelyne Baron. Sound designed by Chris Julen and Samara Freemark, with original music by Chris Julen. Our art is by Malika Favre. Additional editing and production by Natalie Jablonsky. Fact checking by Elen Warner and Theresa Matthew. Art Direction by Aviva Mikhalov. Legal review by Fabio Bertoni and Kamisha Lawrie. Our managing editor is Julia Rothschild. The head of global audio for CondeNast is Chris Banon. The editor of The New Yorker is David Remnik. The final episode of the Runaway Princesses will be released in the In the Dark feed soon, so stay subscribed to make sure you don't miss it. But if you want to listen to the last episode right now, ad free, we've got a special offer for you. Go to newyorker. Com/dark and subscribe to The Newyorker for just $1 a week. You'll be able to unlock the remaining episodes of the Runaway Princesses right away, and you'll get full access to everything else The Newyorker publishes. That's newyorker. Com/dark. If you're already a subscriber, just download the New Yorker app to listen to every episode of The Runaway Princesses ad-free right now.


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