Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of Dubai, targeted the phone of his estranged wife Princess Haya with a military-grade spyware tool during a London court battle over their two children, a High Court judge has found.
Sheikh Mohammed permitted his “servants or agents” to use an Israeli manufactured and commercially sold covert surveillance weapon called Pegasus to target the phones of Princess Haya and her divorce lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton, according to a High Court ruling.
Pegasus spyware, the military-grade software licensed by the Israeli company NSO Group, is only supposed to be deployed by sovereign states to prevent terrorism and serious crime, according to the company, and is sold only with approval of the Israeli government. It is licensed to the United Arab Emirates.
The ex-wife of Dubai’s leader has reason to doubt the tale of his prodigal daughter — she too was held captive by him, she claims.
Reclining by a window in her hilltop residence outside Beirut, Randa al-Banna took a puff of her slim cigarette and looked out over the Mediterranean. The former wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai needed all her ingenuity just to make it here.
The house, where she lives with two chihuahuas, a Yorkshire terrier and a Pomeranian, is one of the few places she feels safe, decades after her split from the billionaire prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. His sporadic financial support, coupled with what she says was a recent three-month spell kept in effective house arrest in Rome, has enmeshed Banna, 66, in her former husband’s world, but it has not silenced her, even though she still fears she could be targeted for speaking out about one of the Middle East’s most powerful men.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai rules one of the world’s richest city-states–and prides himself on being progressive. So why do women from his family keep fleeing?
The Royal Courts of Justice, a massive Victorian Gothic structure on the Strand in the heart of London built in the 1870s, is not typically the scene of media frenzy. But on the gray, chilly morning of November 12, 2019, a cluster of photographers and reporters stood behind barricades, waiting for a glimpse of a reclusive celebrity. At 10:50 a.m. a black Range Rover pulled up to the entrance. Flanked by two bodyguards and wearing a conservative dark green dress, Princess Haya Bint Hussein, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and estranged wife of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, strode toward the entrance.
From a conference stage at Tel Aviv University, Israel’s new prime minister called on all “good nations” to join forces against the growing scourge of cybersecurity threats.
Yet Naftali Bennett, a millionaire tech boss turned politician, made no mention of one of the most devastating global hacking scandals yet recorded, which came to light only a few days earlier.
According to widespread reports last week, spyware sold by NSO Group, an Israeli technology company, had been used by their clients, including the Saudi Arabian and Emirati governments, to target the private data of journalists, activists, senior politicians and military chiefs in 34 countries.
A spyware tool developed by an Israeli security company might have been used to trace an Emirati princess who tried to flee her father’s kingdom.
Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum was recaptured by commandos in a yacht off the coast of India. She fled from Dubai with Tiina Jauhiainen, a fitness instructor she had become friends with, on February 24, 2018.
They drove to Oman, boarded a dinghy then used jet skis to catch a yacht that was to take them to Sri Lanka.
Commandos stormed the yacht off the coast of Goa. A fact-finding judgment in 2019 by Sir Andrew McFarlane, of the High Court, found that as the princess was dragged away she was heard to shout: “Shoot me here, don’t take me back.”
Listings of phones belonging to royal and her friends coincide with her dramatic escape from Dubai and eventual recapture.
For a few days Princess Latifa had dared to think she could relax. An extraordinary plan to escape from a father she said had once ordered her “constant torture” was looking as if it might work, as she sat on a 30-metre yacht on the Indian Ocean, her home city of Dubai further and further away.
Yet the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of the glittering Emirati city, still wanted to connect with home, to tell family and friends something of her new-found freedom, sending emails, WhatsApp messages and posting on Instagram from what she thought were two secure, brand new “burner” pay-as-you-go mobile phones.
It was a decision that may have had fateful consequences, according to analysis by the Pegasus project.
In the days before commandos dragged Princess Latifa from her getaway yacht in the Indian Ocean, her number was added to a list that included targets of a powerful spyware, a new investigation shows.
The princess had been careful, so she left her phone in the cafe’s bathroom. She’d seen what her father could do to women who tried to escape.
She hid in the trunk of a black Audi Q7, then jumped into a Jeep Wrangler as her getaway crew raced that morning from the glittering skyscrapers of Dubai to the rough waves of the Arabian Sea. They launched a dinghy from a beach in neighboring Oman, then, 16 miles out, switched to water scooters. By sunset they’d reached their idling yacht, the Nostromo, and began sailing toward the Sri Lankan coast.
Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, the 32-year-old daughter of Dubai’s fearsome ruler, believed she was closer than ever to political asylum — and, for the first time, real freedom in the United States, members of her escape team said in interviews.
The FBI was tricked into helping the ruler of Dubai abduct his daughter from a yacht as she tried to escape his control, it has been claimed.
Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum was seized by Indian army commandos off the coast of Goa in March 2018.
She claimed to have been held prisoner by her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, in a “villa jail” in Dubai before apparently being freed last month.
An investigation by USA Today claimed that the FBI handed over details of the location of the US-flagged yacht Nostromo from satellite data gleaned from its internet access after the sheikh claimed that his daughter had been kidnapped.
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum – also known as Princess Latifa – was running away from her father, the authoritarian ruler of Dubai, when her escape was thwarted after a dramatic raid of her yacht in 2018 on the Indian Ocean.
How Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum located his daughter was a mystery for three years – until now. A USA TODAY investigation has found the FBI played a key role.
On a yacht in the Indian Ocean, heavily armed commandos seized the princess.
“Shoot me here! Don’t take me back!” Princess Latifa – whose full name is Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum – screamed during the raid in March 2018 as the armed men bound her wrists. They had been sent by her father, the billionaire prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and authoritarian ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
Despite her pleas, confirmed by two eyewitnesses who traveled with her aboard the U.S.-flagged yacht Nostromo, the princess was dragged off the vessel and returned to Dubai and her father’s rule.
How Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum found his daughter has been a mystery for more than three years – until now.