Queen has accepted racehorses from ruler of Dubai even after his wife Princess Haya fled to London

It’s royal gifts as usual amid the mystery of the sheikh’s missing daughters

The Queen has continued to accept gifts of racehorses from the ruler of Dubai, even after his wife fled to London in fear of her life.

Horses given by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum accounted for a sixth of those that carried the Queen’s silks during the flat season last year.

Some of the gifts were accepted after the sheikh’s youngest wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 46, fled to London with their two young children in March 2019. Two months later the princess, a former Olympic equestrian, was invited to join the Queen for tea at Windsor.

Mohammed gave Lightness to the Queen’s stables


The revelation of the continuing gifts comes after the Queen was urged to use her influence over the sheikh to secure the release of two daughters he had abducted. Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, spoke this weekend of her regret at failing to use her prestige as a former United Nations human rights envoy to intervene on behalf of Princess Latifa, 35.

Robinson had lunch with Latifa in 2018 and later described her as a troubled young woman.

Through a shared love of horses Mohammed has developed a friendship with the Queen that transcends normal royal protocol. He is regularly invited to join her at Royal Ascot.

Mohammed, 71, prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, has invested a fortune to make Godolphin in Newmarket, Suffolk, one of the premier racing stables.

John Warren, the Queen’s racing manager, declined to comment yesterday about the gifts from Godolphin since 2019 or on rumours that further horses had been accepted. A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said that it “would not comment on private matters”.

The Queen does not buy horses. All the 55 horses that carried her silks during the last flat season were from the royal stud, except the nine given by Godolphin. The age of some of the Godolphin horses meant that they must have been given after the princess fled to London. Mohammed is reported to have given the Queen four yearlings each year since 2009.

Six of the sheikh’s gifts won a race last year: Lightness, Just Fine, Inveigle, Wakening, Chosen Star and Desert Flyer. They collected £34,440 in prize money but cost the Queen about £270,000 in training fees. The previous year five other horses from Godolphin carried the Queen’s silks in flat races.

The Queen’s association with the sheikh is expected to come under the spotlight again this week as a new audio recording is released from Latifa, who the High Court found had been abducted by her father.

In the recording she recalls one of the sheikh’s senior aides saying that her father would take no notice of pleas to release her.

She says: “He is saying, ‘Nobody can make your father let you be free, nobody. Nobody is stronger than him.’ Yeah, it is all like brainwashing, they are trying to discourage me.”

Latifa was seized in 2018 by armed men while escaping Dubai on a yacht with Tiina Jauhiainen, a friend who had been her martial arts instructor. She has also appealed for her freedom in videos from her “villa jail”.

Concern about the princess’s plight has been spreading at the UN. Her supporters at first requested help from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, overseen by the UN Human Rights Council, which has put her on its list of cases. Her ordeal has been referred to three more bodies: the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the special rapporteur on violence against women; and the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women. UN officials attended an online conference where the new audio was played, alongside video testimony from the princess. “You could see they are taking it very seriously,” her lawyer, David Haigh, said. “You cannot fail to be affected by these videos.”

Jauhiainen has published an open letter to the Queen appealing for her to use “whatever influence” she has with the sheikh to secure the release of Latifa and her sister Shamsa, 39, who was abducted in Cambridge in 2000. She wrote: “Given you so obviously value justice, freedom and family and that you command universal respect, I truly believe your intervention could help bring the ordeal of these two women to an end.”

Mohammed’s British properties include the 3,300-acre Dalham Hall estate in Newmarket, the £75 million Longcross estate near Cobham, Surrey, and a 63,000-acre Highland estate.

Queen has accepted racehorses from ruler of Dubai even after his wife Princess Haya fled to London

The Queen has continued to accept gifts of racehorses from the ruler of Dubai, even after his wife fled to London in fear of her life. Horses given by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum accounted for a sixth of those that carried the Queen’s silks during the flat season last year.

Justine McCarthy: Mary Robinson must lead on search for missing Princess Latifa

The former president can use her global influence to pressurise Dubai

For those of us who celebrated Mary Robinson’s election as Ireland’s first woman president in 1990 the vapour trails of euphoria lingered long after she had left Aras an Uachtarain seven years later. She was a feminist who did not just talk the talk; she had walked the walk to Leinster House and the Four Courts as a senator and a senior counsel, chipping away at the patriarchal edifice to carve out improvements in women’s lives. Her election as the head of this state came at the end of a decade of horrors for Irish females, most notably the medieval evisceration of Joanne Hayes at the Kerry Babies tribunal; the tragic death of Ann Lovett, 15, with her newborn baby at the feet of a statue of the Blessed Virgin in Granard; the court-approved dismissal of Eileen Flynn from her teaching job in Wexford for cohabiting with a married man; and two viciously fought referendums on abortion and divorce when women’s feelings were hurled around like rocks by warring cavemen.

In a delicious irony it was a sexist attack on Robinson by the former EU commissioner Pádraig Flynn the weekend before the presidential election, when he accused her of portraying “a newfound interest” in her family during the campaign, that ensured her victory. As president she often aligned the office with vulnerable women, particularly by visiting refuges for survivors of domestic abuse. Her ultimate act of feminist symbolism was when she visited the Pope on International Women’s Day, eschewing the Vatican’s requirement that women dress from head to toe in black and, instead, sporting a sprig of mimosa, Italy’s women’s-lib emblem, on a vivid green dress. Her visit as president to famine-blighted Somalia, where she made a point of privately meeting women community leaders, catapulted her into the role of UN high commissioner for human rights.

Watching Robinson’s apologia on last week’s BBC Panorama programme about the kidnapping, captivity and disappearance of Princess Latifa of Dubai was like watching one of your heroes fall from grace. When someone damages the very cause that had enticed you to invest your respect in them, the shattering of that regard is gut-wrenching.

Robinson has, at long last, conceded she was used as a patsy by Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in an international propaganda exercise to conceal his crimes. He had his daughter abducted by armed commandoes on board a yacht off the coast of India after she tried to escape his tyrannical clutches in 2018. “My father is the most evil person I have ever met in my life,” she said in a video she secretly recorded. Latifa was back under lock and key in Dubai when Robinson, while attending a conference in Paris, received an invitation to lunch in the glittering Arab emirate from Latifa’s step-mother, Princess Haya. One of the sheikh’s six wives and mothers of his 25 children, Haya had become friendly with Robinson before her marriage, during a sojourn in Ireland working with horses in the 1990s. She paid for Robinson’s flight to Dubai.

Latifa has said Haya told her that, if she passed the test of sitting docilely at lunch, she might enjoy greater freedom. The younger woman knew nothing about this “Mary” who came to lunch and said that, had she known she was a former human rights commissioner, she would have confided in Robinson. Instead, the conversation at lunch was about sport, veganism and the environment. Robinson has said Haya told her Latifa was suffering from bipolar disorder and that she did not discuss this with the younger woman, having no expertise in the condition.

On Christmas Eve Dubai issued photographs and film footage of the occasion to rebut international concerns that Latifa was being held prisoner. When the BBC challenged her about her role in December 2018 Robinson said Latifa was “clearly troubled” but she was “in the loving care” of her family.

Last week the Irish woman admitted she had been duped. “I was misled, initially by my good friend princess Haya, because she was misled.” The unanswered question is why Robinson has waited until now to admit her mistake. Four months after the images of the lunch were released Haya herself fled Dubai with her two children and petitioned for a divorce in London. She told the court she was “terrified” of her husband, that he had intimidated her with guns, and planned to marry off their 12-year-old daughter.

Haya said she began to see through his lies about Latifa’s mental health when she visited the young woman in a locked and guarded house on December 6, 2018. That was nine days before Robinson came to lunch. Yet there is no indication that the human-rights champion protested at the release of the film and photos a further 10 days later.

The sheikh did not testify in court. Instead, he brazenly hosted an international conference on women’s rights, which was addressed by Ivanka Trump, a daughter of America’s then president. While it is almost understandable that someone whose father is a self-confessed “pussy” grabber would give her imprimatur to a misogynistic regime, one expected better from Robinson. She would know that Dubai’s laws discriminate against women in regulating marriage, child custody and inheritance. Naivety cannot explain her behaviour, because she is far from naive.

On March 5, 2020, the London court ruled that Latifa was held for three years on her father’s instructions after her first attempt to escape in 2005, and that he had ordered her abduction and forced return to Dubai in 2018. The judgment also stated that Sheikh Mohammed had arranged the kidnapping of her older sister, Shamsa, from Cambridge in 2000. She has not been seen in public since.

I believe Robinson remains sincere in her beliefs about women’s rights and suspect she feels devastated at being exploited, to the endangerment of Latifa, who has vanished since that lunch. Haya and Robinson are, to different extents, victims of the tyrant sheikh too. The Irishwoman, however, has the global influence as well as the cultural and jurisdictional independence to make amends.

Robinson’s biography on the website of the Elders, an international elite formed by Nelson Mandela which she chairs, describes her as “a forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace building and human dignity”. Sadly, she needs to prove it, all over again. She can do that by leading the charge to find Latifa and her sister Shamsa, and by forcing the rest of the world to stop turning a blind eye to wealthy tyrants.

Meanwhile the rest of us might think twice about holidaying in Dubai, thus contributing to the tourism revenue that helps immunise a wicked father and leader against any threat to his authoritarian hold on his country.

Justine McCarthy: Mary Robinson must lead on search for missing Princess Latifa

For those of us who celebrated Mary Robinson’s election as Ireland’s first woman president in 1990 the vapour trails of euphoria lingered long after she had left Aras an Uachtarain seven years later.

Help to free my sister, Dubai princess begs British police

The missing Dubai princess has appealed to British police to reinvestigate the fate of an older sister who disappeared in Cambridge two decades ago, according to a smuggled letter.

Princess Latifa, 35, who says that she is being held captive by her family, said that police could help to free Princess Shamsa, 39.

The older sister ran away in 2000 from a Surrey estate owned by her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. She was seized two months later. Cambridgeshire police investigated the case at the time but were blocked from pursuing it to the United Arab Emirates.

“All I ask of you is to please give attention on her case because it could get her her freedom,” Latifa, 35, wrote in the letter, which has been shared with the BBC. “Your help and attention on her case could free her. She has strong links to England. She really loves England, all of her fondest memories are of her time there.”

Details of what happened to Shamsa, who was staying at the Longcross estate, near Chobham, when she fled, were only fully revealed when Latifa, who is her full sister by one of Sheikh Mohammed’s six wives, ran away herself in 2018.

In a video recorded and sent to the campaign group Detained in Dubai, to be released only if she were recaptured, she described how Shamsa had been held in prison and then drugged to keep her docile after her escape attempt.

Latifa said she herself had tried to escape before. This time, she almost made it to India on a yacht owned by a Frenchman, Hervé Jaubert, along with a Finnish friend, Tiina Jauhiainen, but they were intercepted by the Indian and Emirati navies.

Last week BBC Panorama updated the story by releasing more videos, this time secretly recorded in 2019 by Latifa on a phone smuggled into the villa in Dubai where she said she was being held captive.

It is not clear how the letter being revealed now was released. The BBC said it was written in 2019, though dated February 2018, before her escape, to disguise the details of its origins. It has been passed to the police.

The letter repeated Latifa’s earlier claims about her sister’s treatment after she was flown back to Dubai from England in 2000. “She was kept incommunicado with no release date, trial or charge,” it said. “She was tortured by getting her feet caned.”

Cambridgeshire police confirmed that they had received the letter and said it would be added to a continuing review of the case. “This is a very complex and serious matter and as such there are details of the case that it would be inappropriate to discuss publicly,” the force said in a statement.

The Foreign Office subsequently confirmed that Dubai, which has close relations with Britain, had approached it about Shamsa’s case when her disappearance was being investigated.

A senior police officer who was blocked from investigating the kidnapping of Shamsa at the time of her abduction claimed last year that the truth about the case was being suppressed to save official “embarrassment”. David Beck, the detective chief inspector who was in charge of the original investigation, was denied permission by the Crown Prosecution Service to travel to Dubai to interview witnesses, and the investigation was dropped.

He said he had been prevented from reviewing the police files in the case despite being required to give evidence in the High Court.

“They said in the statements in court they quoted ‘significant sensitivities’ and to me ‘significant sensitivities’ means someone is going to get embarrassed,” Beck said. “Well, personal embarrassment is not a reason for withholding the truth about the evidence.”

Last week Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said that the video footage was “deeply troubling” and that Britain would “watch very closely developments on that front”.

As part of custody hearings in London in 2019 connected to Sheikh Mohammed’s divorce from another wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, he issued a statement that Shamsa was “vulnerable” and that he had ordered a “rescue mission” for her in 2000. However, the judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, ruled that the sheikh had ordered the abduction of both daughters.

It is not that no one knew about the kidnapping of Princess Shamsa from the streets of Cambridge in August 2000. She managed to get word out through a lawyer, and police began an investigation (Richard Spencer writes).

The princess had fled the estate of her father, Sheikh Mohammed, near Chobham, Surrey, in a black Range Rover before heading to Cambridge. Once there she checked into the University Arms Hotel but on August 19 her break for freedom came to an abrupt end. Shamsa was captured by a team of her father’s operatives who had been trailing her since her escape. It was not long before she was back in Dubai and, after police were blocked from travelling there, the investigation stalled.

So for almost two decades everyone forgot about the free-spirited 18-year-old. One person who did not was her younger sister Latifa. She was 14 at the time and the punishment meted out to Shamsa, rather than cowing her, made her even more determined to follow suit. She made her own first escape attempt two years later, heading over the border from Dubai to neighbouring Oman before being captured and returned home.

Later on, she saw her sister emerge from incarceration a shell of the girl with whom she had grown up. “She had to be led around by her hand,” Latifa said in one of the statements leaked to the BBC. “She couldn’t open her eyes. She was given a bunch of pills to control her. Those pills made her like a zombie.”

Other than that, Shamsa is the invisible princess. Her brothers, sisters and cousins are celebrities in Dubai, with Instagram accounts showing glamorous lives with all the luxuries that come with having a Gulf emir as your father.

Her older brother, Sheikh Hamdan, the crown prince, keeps a white tiger as a pet. A cousin, also called Latifa, shares the family passion for horses and competed as an equestrian at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Sheikh Mohammed says both princesses are being cared for in the bosom of his family. He says they have declined requests to speak to a lawyer. The UN has asked for proof of life.

The sheikh is absolute ruler of his emirate and there is little any outside power, including Cambridgeshire police, can do to stop him treating his daughters as he wishes.

In 2000, though, Dubai was much less well known than it is today, something of a magnet for British tourists, football stars, influencers and businessmen. The battle for Shamsa and Latifa, and for the image of the Maktoum family, has some way to go yet.

Help to free my sister, Dubai princess begs British police

The missing Dubai princess has appealed to British police to reinvestigate the fate of an older sister who disappeared in Cambridge two decades ago, according to a smuggled letter. Princess Latifa, 35, who says that she is being held captive by her family, said that police could help to free Princess Shamsa, 39.

Letters: Robinson’s lunch with Princess Latifa is too much to swallow

Justine McCarthy is right to take to task former president Mary Robinson for her lunch with Princess Latifa, daughter and prisoner of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, billionaire ruler of Dubai (“Why I feel let down by Mary Robinson”, Comment, last week).

In March 2018, Princess Latifa recorded a heart-rending video detailing her life of subjugation, including her plan to mount an escape. She said that her video would be published only if her escape failed. It did fail, as her father had her recaptured, and so friends released the video, which is still available on YouTube.

In December 2018, Robinson visited Dubai for her infamous lunch with Princess Haya, one of the sheikh’s six wives, and Princess Latifa, who had been a prisoner since her capture.

It seems inconceivable that Robinson, in preparing for her visit, did not view the video or did not have her attention drawn to it. She should have known what she was doing, and that Princess Latifa was a captive.
Tony Allwright
Carrickmines, Dublin 18

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
I was one of the women who was elated at Robinson’s election as president in 1990 and her subsequent championing of human rights. However, with her brilliant mind and vast life experience, she should have known better than to go to that lunch.

McCarthy has called her out, but did so in a measured and heartfelt way, suggesting how the former Irish president could undo some of the damage. We await her next move. MW Foley, by email

Elephant in the room

For all the plaudits heaped on Robinson, “cop on” seems to be in short supply. Anyone who studies Dubai and takes one look at its leader would know enough to make them run, and keep running.
Marie Flynn, Dublin

Decoy ducked
While praising Robinson for her election as Ireland’s first female president, for which I worked hard, you omitted the fact that she resigned from the position with six weeks left of her term. I felt very let down at the time.

Robinson later apologised and said she was taken in by Kofi Annan, who had put pressure on her to take up the position as the UN’s high commissioner for human rights. The episode meant I wasn’t surprised by her actions later with Princess Haya. Unfortunately, she seems a gullible person. Vincent Tully, Carlow


Weakness for flattery Once again, Robinson demonstrates a lack of judgment. She has a record of being ineffectual and subject to flattery. Walking out of the presidency for greater things at the UN was an act of stupidity and abandonment. Jumping at this Dubai opportunity without research beforehand confirms these deficiencies. John Ryan
Pittsburgh, USA


Shocking disappointment
An excellent article: I too feel disappointment at her response to the fate of Princess Latifa; incredulity at the level of her naivety. Sighle Bhreathnach Lynch Dalkey


Chance of redemption

The only way Robinson can redeem herself now is to be seen to actively investigate the current wellbeing of this young woman. Tony Morgan, Dublin 6

Blind eye to human rights
Full marks to McCarthy for shining a light on Richard O’Halloran’s detention in China (Comment, February 14). This is a grave abuse of the human rights of an Irish citizen but our craven government has adopted the three monkeys’ approach. Shame on all concerned. Daniel Smith
Blackrock, Co Dublin

Letters: Robinson’s lunch with Princess Latifa is too much to swallow

Justine McCarthy is right to take to task former president Mary Robinson for her lunch with Princess Latifa, daughter and prisoner of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, billionaire ruler of Dubai (“Why I feel let down by Mary Robinson”, Comment, last week).

Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum seized in exchange for arms dealer

The daughter of the ruler of Dubai was seized by Indian commandos as part of a deal to extradite a British arms dealer, a United Nations panel has ruled.

Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum was captured on a yacht off the coast of Goa as she attempted to escape her father in March 2018, then drugged and returned to Dubai.

Weeks later Christian Michel, 59, was extradited from Dubai to Delhi, where he is accused of paying bribes to help AgustaWestland, the helicopter manufacturer that has a base in Yeovil, Somerset, win a contract worth more than $500 million.