MP queries 'kidnapping' of sheikh's daughter

Stuart Millar and Jamie Wilson
December 10, 2001, The Guardian

Ministers were last night facing calls to reveal what steps have been taken to investigate allegations made by a woman claiming to be the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, one of the world’s richest Arab leaders, that she was kidnapped from a street in Cambridge by members of the sheikh’s staff.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, has tabled two written questions in the Commons demanding to know what the Home Office and Foreign Office know about the case, revealed in the Guardian yesterday.

Cambridgeshire police have confirmed that there is an inquiry into an allegation received via a third party that a 19-year-old girl was taken from Britain back to her home country in the Middle East against her will.

Sources in London and Cambridge have independently confirmed to the Guardian that the woman, who has since spoken to police by telephone, claims to be Sheikha Shamsa, the crown prince of Dubai’s daughter.

Sheikh Mohammed has so far remained silent about the investigation, despite extensive attempts by the Guardian to talk to him and his daughter. Yesterday, his London lawyer, Peter Watson, a partner at the City firm Allen and Overy, said that there was “no response as yet.”

Mr Shaibani, the managing director of the Dubai London office, who, according to Sheikh Mohammed’s Newmarket HQ is responsible for handling the sheikh’s personal business in this country, was unavailable for comment.

The woman who contacted police via a British solicitor in March claimed that she was picked up from a street in Cambridge by at least four of Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai-based staff in August 2000.

She alleges that she was taken to one of the Maktoum properties in Newmarket before being whisked out of the country by private jet the next day.

Officers are trying to establish whether the caller was genuine and the events took place as described. It is not clear whether any criminal offence has been committed.

Mr Baker said yesterday: “This case requires an investigation to establish all the details and that the investigation should be conducted without fear or favour.”

He has tabled a question to the Home Office asking what steps are being taken to investigate the allegations made by the woman claiming to be Sheikha Shamsa.

Mr Baker has also asked Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, what contact there has been between his department and Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai authorities in relation to the allegations.

Sheikh Mohammed is the key member of the autocratic Maktoum ruling clan in Dubai and defence minister of the United Arab Emirates. Worth an estimated $8bn he and his three brothers are believed to accrue $1m a day each from oil revenues.

He splits his time between Dubai and the UK. As the driving force behind the Godolphin horseracing stable, based in Newmarket, he is one of the most succesful thoroughbred owners in the world.