Princess Latifa’s attempt to escape Dubai was thwarted. Here’s what we know about the FBI’s role

Kim Hjelmgaard and Kevin Johnson, USA Today
July 8, 2021

Princess Latifa al-Maktoum says family is holding her hostage in Dubai

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.

For details, read our full story.

Here’s what we know:

  • On March 4, 2018, Princess Latifa, then 32, had been at sea for eight days when the U.S.-registered yacht Nostromo she was traveling on was raided by armed men. They bound her wrists and dragged her off the boat. They had been sent by the princess’s father, the billionaire prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. 
  • USA TODAY, which pieced together the harrowing events through witness interviews, video, audio and other data, has learned that the FBI, responding to an urgent plea from Sheikh Mohammed’s office, helped locate the princess.
  • USA TODAY’s sources said they believe the FBI was misled about her circumstances aboard the yacht. The Dubai government claimed the princess had been kidnapped and needed emergency aid to secure her release, according to multiple people familiar with the FBI’s role in the highly sensitive operation. That prompted FBI agents to obtain geolocation data from the yacht’s internet provider and supply it to Dubai officials.
  • Sheikh Mohammed, Princess Latifa’s father, declined to comment through legal representatives, but he has maintained in court records that he rescued the princess. He has repeatedly rejected claims of mistreating her.
  • The FBI, the White House and State Department also declined to comment.

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