A police investigation into the kidnap of a teenage Arab princess is being reviewed for the second time after a judge found that the abduction was orchestrated by the powerful ruler of Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was accused in court of ordering his agents to abduct his 19-year-old daughter, Princess Shamsa, in Cambridge after she escaped from the family’s country estate in 2000.
Robin Cook, the foreign secretary at the time, asked to be kept informed of the details of the case. The officer in charge of the investigation was later denied permission by the Crown Prosecution Service to travel to Dubai to interview witnesses and the inquiry was dropped.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division of the High Court, ruled yesterday, as part of a custody battle, that Sheikh Mohammed had orchestrated the abduction and forced captivity of Shamsa.
A Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman said today that the investigation was now being reviewed. “The burden of proof and evidential requirements are significantly different in family court proceedings to that of criminal proceedings, however, in light of the recent release of the judgment, aspects of the case will now be subject to review,” she said.
The force said earlier this week that a review of the case in 2017 had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to take any further action and the investigation was no longer active.
There is anxiety in the Foreign Office about how the revelations in Sir Andrew’s ruling may affect Britain’s close relations with the United Arab Emirates, a key intelligence and defence partner in the Gulf.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who is in Saudi Arabia, said: “We’ll look at it very carefully before jumping to any conclusions.”
The ruling was published after the Supreme Court lifted a secrecy order over details of the child custody battle between the sheikh and his former wife, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.
Sir Andrew found Sheikh Mohammed had conducted a “campaign of fear and intimidation” against Princess Haya, forcing her to flee to London with their two children last year.
He found Sheikh Mohammed “ordered and orchestrated” the abduction of Princess Shamsa’s sister, Latifa, in 2002 and again in 2018.
The Foreign Office had refused to release details to the court about its knowledge of Shamsa’s kidnapping because it would “reduce the UK government’s ability to protect and promote UK interests through its relations with UAE, which would not be in the public interest”.
Sir Andrew concluded that the police investigation was not blocked by the “direct intervention” of the Foreign Office or that “any intervention of the FCO had been triggered by the father or the government of Dubai”.
The civil standard in court proceedings requires the evidence to be proved on the balance of probabilities rather than “beyond reasonable doubt” which is needed for a guilty verdict in UK criminal prosecutions. The judgment will be used to decide the future welfare of the sheikh’s children with Princess Haya.
Sheikh Mohammed said the loss of his appeal against the judgment being published meant that his children were not protected from media attention in the same way as others involved in family court hearings. “As a head of government I was not able to participate in the court’s fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a ‘fact-finding’ judgment which inevitably tells only one side of the story,” he said.