Dubai princess used fake Irish passport during 2018 escape attempt

Sheikha Latifa (37) had tried to flee country only to be detained by commandos in boat off India

Shauna Bowers, The Irish Times
May 3, 2023

A Dubai princess who has been the subject of concern from a United Nations panel after being seized trying to flee the sheikhdom in 2018 obtained a fake Irish passport as part of her plan to escape her home country, it has emerged.

Sheikha Latifa (37) had tried to flee the country in 2018 only to be detained by commandos in a boat off India.

In a longform article in the New Yorker magazine, published this week, it was reported that as part of her escape plan, Ms Latifa used false Irish documents

Under the plan, Ms Latifa intended to cross the border by underwater scooter, using a scuba rebreather, and then take a dinghy to a pre-purchased boat that was located at a rendezvous point nearly 27km off the coast of Oman. The plan was then to sail to India or Sri Lanka, and Ms Latifa would use her fake Irish passport to fly to the US.

However, in footage released by the BBC in February 2021, she said she had been drugged during her escape attempt and taken back into detention.

Asked about Ms Latifa’s use of a falsified passport, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it does not comment on individual cases.

“The Passport Service is well informed of all emerging threats, challenges and changes in the global fraud space and has successfully preserved the integrity and international reputation of the Irish passport, which is currently ranked sixth in the world in the Henley Passport Index,” the spokesman said.

“The Passport Service have made significant investment in recent years on counter fraud measures including anti-fraud technology and have implemented robust processes to ensure the integrity of the Irish passport is maintained.”

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson became embroiled in the case after she attended a lunch with the princess and the princess’s family in December 2018 amid increasing international concern for Ms Latifa’s welfare. Ms Robinson has since said her role in the controversy was her biggest mistake.

Following the lunch meeting in 2018 with the princess, Ms Robinson had described her as “troubled”, but she now says she was misled by the princess’s stepmother, a former friend.

In February 2021′s BBC Panorama documentary, Ms Robinson said the former friend, Princess Haya bint Hussein, had told her Princess Latifa had quite a serious bipolar disorder. Ms Robinson said she had been told “in a way that was very convincing” that the family did not want Ms Latifa to go through any further trauma.

Last year, Ms Latifa was pictured with the UN High Commissioner for Human Right Michelle Bachelet, in Paris.

Ms Latifa is not the first individual to have obtained fake Irish documents, with there being a number of high-profile incidents in recent years.

In 2010, Dubai police said three Irish passport-holders were members of an assassination team allegedly responsible for killing a senior Hamas official. At the height of the Iran-Contra affair in 1986, Col Oliver North and several of his fellow agents travelled to Iran as Irish citizens, with North’s passport being made out to a John Clancy.