In Letter from Tihar, Christian Michel Asks UK PM to Sanction Modi for UAE Princess’s Abduction

The UK national, who has spent three years in jail awaiting trial in the AgustaWestland case, says the Modi government helped the UAE abduct Princess Latifa in 2018 so that it could get him in exchange.

The Wire Staff, The Wire
November 25, 2021

New Delhi: The British national Christian James Michel, accused in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal and now into his third year as an undertrial prisoner, has threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike in Delhi’s Tihar jail from today, November 25, if charges of human rights violations are not brought against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a nine-page handwritten letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dated October 5 but made public only now, Michel has accused Modi of being responsible for the abduction of Princess Latifa in 2018 following an attack on the yacht she was travelling in on the high seas by Indian special forces. Michel has claimed that he was handed over to India by the United Arab Emirates’ authorities in exchange for Latifa, the estranged and runaway daughter of the ruler of Dubai.

Languishing in jail for three years ‘without charge or trial’

Michel wrote that he has been in an Indian jail for three years “without charge or trial” and that he was “brought to India from Dubai under now accepted rendition that has also been confirmed as such by the UN Human Rights Council”.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), a body under the UN, had in February this year held Michel’s detention in India to be “arbitrary” and called for his immediate release. The WGAD had also taken cognisance of submissions by Michel’s lawyers that his handover to India in 2018 by the UAE authorities was a “swap deal” for Princess Latifa. The Ministry of External Affairs had, however, rejected these charges and termed the WGAD’s opinion as one based on “limited information” and “biased allegations”.

`Rakesh Asthana wanted me to sign false confession naming Rahul, Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel’

Significantly, in Michel’s letter written on October 5, 2021, and submitted to the British High Commission in New Delhi – a copy of which is with The Wire – he has accused former Central Bureau of Investigation special director Rakesh Asthana of telling him in a meeting in Dubai “to sign a false confession naming Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel (a senior Congress leader) in corruption”. Asthana was later made commissioner of the Delhi Police in July 2021.

Michel wrote that he was told in the meeting, which took place in mid-May 2018 at the Hyatt Hotel, Dubai and which was also attended by nearly five UAE officials, that “if I refuse, I will be taken to India, put in jail for a long time and if one day I get bail, I will not be allowed to travel and be kept in India for 20 years”.


Also read: French Captain to File Suit Over 2018 Capture of Dubai Princess, Case to ‘Also be Against India’


Michel, whose lawyers had earlier also claimed that his hand over to India in 2018 by the UAE authorities was a “swap deal” for Princess Latifa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, reiterated the charge in his letter to Johnson.

He wrote that a friend of his, who was earlier with the UK’s foreign ministry “came to see me in Dubai in April 2018 and told me, I am to be exchanged for Princess Latifa who was abducted off her yacht in international waters off the coast of India by Indian Coast Guard, Indian marine commandos (Marcos) and UAE soldiers on 4 March, 2018”.

According to Michel, “Latifa was taken to India and flown back to Dubai.” Explaining to Johnson the gravity of the incident, he added, “…to be clear what we are talking about, passengers and crew were tied up, some crew were severely beaten, shots fired and Latifa said she was dragged off by the Indian attackers.” All this while, he said, she cried: “You can’t get me back alive. Don’t take me back, shoot me here. Don’t take me back.”

Sheikha Latifa.

`Dubai ruler urged Modi to kidnap his daughter’

Citing the court proceedings before Sir Andrew McFarlane from the family division of the London high court, Michel wrote that the judge recorded that Maktoum had “requested Modi to kidnap his daughter, who had only 7 days earlier escaped from Dubai. My friend explained, Modi in return demanded my rendition from Dubai to India.”

Michel added in the letter that “if I had any doubt about my exchange for Latifa, in mid-May 2018, I was called with my lawyers to a meeting with UAE representatives and an Indian representative”.

During this meeting with Asthana and other officials, Michel wrote that he was told “if I sign I will be made a witness, the Red Notice will be dropped and I will not have to go to India. Asthana made it very clear a deal has been done and law will not save you, you will be taken to India”.

Over three meetings, he added, he refused to sign. Then, Michel wrote, “I was arrested on 14 June.” He added that “over 130 days in jail (in UAE), I never was allowed to see my Dubai lawyers, I was never presented in court and to this day I have never even been allowed to see my extradition notice”.

`Flown to India on December 4, 2018, subjected to rights abuse’

Though on November 14, 2018, according to Michel, “I heard that the UAE Supreme Court had rejected India’s extradition request”, “the next day a new Supreme Court was ordered to retry the case of extradition”. He added that when his Italian lawyer rushed to Dubai, he was arrested at the airport on some “rubbish charge”.

Michel said “on the 4th of December, I was blindfolded, handcuffed and pushed on a private jet”. Once in India, he claimed, he was “subjected to riotous, free-wheeling human rights abuse”. He said he was interrogated extensively and the British High Commission were refused access for 40 days.

He insisted that for 40 days, there were “threats” but “no trial” and all this while there was “continual pressure to sign a false confession”.

`Sheikh wanted to protect his own reputation’

Michel also wrote to Johnson about why the abduction of Princess Latifa took place:

“For his Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, it is clear. His daughter Latifa was escaping his abusive father and threatening to expose all about his highness and the UAE just as the World Exposition was in preparation. As Latifa said, ‘He will kill people to protect his own reputation.’”

As for Modi, Michel wrote, “it is a well established principal (sic) that every crime has a motive.”

He added that “Modi was misinformed (by a senior Italian politician, who till today will not answer questions to Italy’s Parliament) that I am an important financier of the Gandhi family”.

As such, Michel wrote, “Modi thought after his failure to extradite me in 2017 (that) if he could rendition me to India in 2018 in exchange for Latifa in time for the early 2019 Indian elections, I could be made to make statements against the Gandhi family and improve his chances no end.”


Also read: UK Govt Tells Christian Michel It Takes Report of His Arbitrary Detention ‘Very Seriously’


Michel added that if Latifa’s exchange for him was seen as a “coincidence”, then one should “look at Modi’s own words spoken at a huge rally in Rajasthan just after my rendition on 4th December 2018”.

Extract of Christian Michel’s handwritten letter

In the rally in December 2018, Michel quoted Modi as saying: “Under the regime of the United Progressive Alliance a VVIP chopper scam took place. We came to power, an investigation was conducted into it and one person from Dubai was found guilty for his involvement in the case. Now this `razdaar’ (custodian of secrets) will reveal all the secrets.”

Michel proclaimed that “This is Modi’s motive. Sir it is quite pointless to deny this. It is out”.

`Open show of contempt for international, maritime law’

Michel also wrote to Johnson, “There is one last question under why. Why did Modi send an armada to abduct one little girl off an unarmed boat?”

He then went to provide the answer himself, saying: “This was an open show of contempt for international law, maritime law and all manner of internationally accepted human rights norms. This attack in international waters was a statement to the West by two leaders. ‘We are sovereign. We are above the law and we don’t need the West, its laws or its human rights.’”

Reminding Johnson of how the first principles of constitutional democracy were inscribed in stone in Magna Carta in 1215 with the words, “Be ye ever so high the law is above you”, Michel said “ensuring accountability for such crimes is fundamental to the community of nations”.

Michel has also written that the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have not taken him for interrogation for the past six months and yet Tihar’s most dangerous convicts have been placed with him.

“The Modi government have realised I am not going to break. (But) They cannot just let me go without a political expedient face-saving solution (sic).”

As for his hunger strike to seek his release, Michel wrote, that in his ward this “is not a big deal” for in any other country such a ward would be called death row since most of the inmates there had received a death sentence.

Through the nine-page handwritten letter, Michel urged Johnson to “do what your government promised to the British people – `Apply to Indians or those in countries that are allies or friends’ – sanctions for human rights abusers.”

He said his hunger strike will commence on November 25 and continue “until such time as your government announce their intention to apply UK’s global human rights (Magnitsky) sanction regime against those individuals and or entities involved in the attack on the Nostromo (yacht), the abduction of Latifa, passengers and crew in international waters on 4 March, 2018.”

The Magnitsky legislation was passed by the UK in July 2020 and has already led to the sanctioning of a number of individuals from different countries.

https://thewire.in/rights/chistian-michel-boris-johnson-letter-modi-princess-latifa

French Captain to File Suit Over 2018 Capture of Dubai Princess, Case to ‘Also be Against India’

There is an accusation that Narendra Modi actually authorised Indian navy commandos to capture Princess Latifa on the high seas after speaking to Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed.

Ashis Ray, The Wire
October 13, 2021

London: Herve Jaubert is a former French naval intelligence officer who captained the US-registered yacht, Nostromo, on which Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed, was attempting to escape from her father’s clutches in February-March 2018. A London high court judgment in December 2019 ruled that she was thwarted by Indian armed forces in international waters in the Arabian Sea at Mohammed’s instigation.

“The description of the way in which Latifa was treated by the Indian security services and also, once the Arabic man [her father’s agent] had identified her, does not give any indication that this was a ‘rescue’ [Mohammed’s argument] rather than a ‘capture’,” was the court’s verdict.

Jaubert is now planning to file a suit against the United Arab Emirates – Dubai being an emirate of the UAE – in a United States court. This was corroborated by his London-based lawyer Radha Stirling, who added: “I want to ensure things like this cannot happen – that the UAE does not feel emboldened to do whatever they want, wherever they want.”

Jaubert has dual nationality: he is a citizen of the US as well as France. His action could be lodged in two other jurisdictions, which he would not disclose. In an interview to The Wire, he warned the case will also be “against India”. Latifa, he asserted, had a valid visa to visit India at the time she was captured by Indian commandos and handed over to the UAE authorities. She had intended to apply for asylum in the United States upon reaching India.

Also read: Before Indian Soldiers Captured Dubai Princess on High Seas, UAE Zeroed in on Her Friends’ Numbers

Jaubert’s plan to initiate legal proceedings follows a July 2021 report in the American newspaper USA Today, which said it learned that the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had “helped locate the princess (in the Arabian Sea)” in response to “an urgent plea from Sheikh Mohammed’s office.”

File photo of Herve Jaubert from his days in the French Navy. (Photo: nostromoattack.com)

The publication wrote: “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.”

It continued: “In doing that, the agents may have violated FBI protocols, legal experts said; (that is) if they obtained the data without subpoenaing the provider, as normally would be required.” It then emphasised: “Without the FBI’s assistance, Princess Latifa might never have been found during her escape.” The paper detailed that “one person with direct knowledge of the operation” said “the FBI truly believed this was a kidnapping case and the US was saving the day”.

Sheikha Latifa (R). (Photo: Reuters.)

Latifa, contrary to Jaubert’s instructions to observe a communication blackout, “sent at least one email, probably several, from a private Yahoo account, using the yacht’s satellite internet provider, which left a footprint disclosing her location”, USA Today pieced together. “Sheikh Mohammed’s office contacted an FBI agent stationed in the US consulate in Dubai. The agent was told Mohammed’s daughter had been kidnapped and there was a ransom demand…Mohammed’s office asked the FBI agent for emergency help to determine when and where email accounts used by Latifa were last checked,” it recounted.

It furthermore set out: “The agent immediately called FBI headquarters in Washington but was not given clear instructions on how to proceed.” However: “The FBI agent in Dubai contacted Nostromo’s satellite company directly. The agent was told a subpoena was required, but the request was elevated, and the company agreed to release the information after the agent insisted it was an emergency situation involving a hostage who was the daughter of the leader of a close US ally in the Middle East, according to people familiar with the operation.”

Norms given go by and Modi’s ‘role’

USA Today reported that contract documents revealed that the Nostromo’s internet provider at the time of the raid by Indian naval troops was a US-based company named KVH Industries. A former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, told the daily that formal subpoenas generally follow the emergency requests. “I don’t know of any internet provider who would provide it (the data) without some kind of paperwork,” he was quoted as remarking.

His view was that a request such as the one from Dubai would have “raised red flags”. Senior FBI and US State Department officials in Washington along with the US ambassador in the country would need “to determine whether it would be appropriate to provide the assistance requested and to consider whether we (the US government) are being used for a bad purpose”.

Another erstwhile US intelligence officer is said to have stated: “The Emiratis have a tremendous capability themselves. It’s unusual they would have gone to the US for help in the first place.”

A spokesperson for Barbara Leaf, who was the US ambassador to the UAE at the time, told USA Today she had no knowledge of any FBI involvement in Sheikh Mohammed’s efforts to locate Latifa. Leaf is now the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.

The FBI’s National Press Office was emailed for a reaction. It replied: “The FBI has no comment.”

Whether the FBI aided the UAE with Nostromo’s location or the UAE tracked down the boat on its own, there is no confusion about what followed. Information about the boat was forwarded to India, which then proceeded to intercept the vessel in international waters. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in an ‘Opinion’ published in March 2021 underscored what happened in no uncertain terms:

“The detainee (Latifa) was extradited by the Indian forces, which had intercepted her yacht in international waters off the coast of Goa in March 2018, after the Prime Minister of India had made a personal telephone call to the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai (Sheikh Mohammed).”

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Emirate of Dubai. (Photo: Facebook.)

It appears to be in black and white that on March 3, 2018, the UAE requested Interpol to issue a Red Notice arrest warrant in the name of a crew member of the Nostromo. The charge against him was “kidnapping”. The “summary of facts of the case” said “the French national ELOMBO Christian Alain kidnapped a United Arab Emirates woman, with the complicity of the United States national JAUBERT Herve Gean Pierre and the Finnish national JAUHIAINEN Tiina Johanna (Latifa’s friend accompanying her in the getaway)”.

Also read: UK Court Says Indian Special Forces Helped Dubai Ruler Abduct His Daughter on High Seas

The UAE is notorious for making false and frivolous complaints to Interpol. For Modi to have rung Mohammed – as outlined by the UNWGAD – is troubling. It is not clear what due diligence, if any, the Indian side undertook before Modi reached out to the Dubai ruler.

Escape and capture 

On February 24, 2018, Latifa reportedly boarded the Nostromo, a 100-ton yacht, off Oman, having driven there from Dubai. Six days after setting sail, USA TODAY maintained, “Jaubert noticed another vessel trailing their route a few miles behind.” Also that an Indian “coast guard spotter plane from the Indian mainland made several observational flights over the boat”. The yacht’s last known position on March 4, 2018 was about 50 miles off the coast of Goa.

Jaubert doesn’t mince his words: “On March 4, Indian coastguards attacked.” Asked what exactly they did, he replied:

“They stopped the boat with speedboats and commandos, without warning. You have to understand, they acted illegally and out of the protocols of maritime law. We were in international waters. If they had a reason, they would have to contact us by radio, ask us to stop to request boarding. They would have to notify the US embassy. They didn’t do any of that. They were like terrorists, not coastguards. After the attack unfolded, we were not fighting back, we were not resisting and yet they beat us for an hour or an hour and a half. I lost consciousness. They threw my crew overboard head first into the sea. Why did they do that?

File photo of the Indian Coastguard Vesssel, Samarth. (Photo: Wikipedia)

He identified the attackers as “Indian MARCOS, elite commandos of the Indian Navy”, adding, “They had the Indian Air Force as cover. It was a massive operation, like wartime. Only the highest officer in India could have ordered such an operation.”

Asked how he knew the men were from the navy and not the coastguards, he responded: “I looked at their weapons. I am familiar with foreign military. I later checked and established the MARCOS had such weapons, not the coastguards. But they didn’t behave like commandos. I have been a commando myself. To beat up and torture people who are restrained is not done. Everybody on board (the Nostromo) had a valid Indian visa.”

Also read: Indian Action Under the Scanner as UN Special Rapporteur Probes Fate of Dubai Princess

He mentioned there were three crew members in addition to Latifa, Jauhiainen and himself on the yacht. The two women were in a cabin below. “The two ladies were forced upstairs, then they put them on the floor, restrained them on the deck. Latifa was screaming all the way, saying she didn’t want to go back to Dubai. She was seeking asylum, she was in international waters on an American boat, but that didn’t stop the MARCOS. They took her out of the boat. They took her away from the rest of us, they took her on a speedboat.”

Asked if they took her to Goa, he answered: “No. They flew her to Mumbai. They told me. They took her on a helicopter. Then she was flown on a private jet to Dubai.”

“Shoot me here! Don’t take me back (to Dubai)!” Latifa is said to have screamed when the Indian forces stormed the yacht in the darkness of night and captured her.

Before this happened, Latifa desperately contacted Stirling, who later recorded: “I received a shattering call from Princess Latifa in the midst of an unprecedented attack on a US yacht.”

There followed a WhatsApp exchange between them:

“Please Help
Please please there’s men outside I don’t know what’s happening”
Latifa at 19:24 CET (23:54 IST)

“Record
Send WhatApp voice messages”
Stirling at 19:25 CET (23:55 IST)

“Record what you can and send”
Stirling at 19:27 CET (23:57 IST)

“Are you on a boat?
Did you go to land?”
Stirling at 19:28 CET (23:58 IST)

“Are guns still firing?”
Stirling at 19:31 CET (00:01 IST)

“Can you send video?”
Stirling at 19:33 CET (00:03 IST)

“Call as soon as you can
Or I will have to alert police.”
Stirling at 20:01 CET (00:31 IST)

According to Stirling, Latifa “swung into action and tried to record messages, but communications were abruptly stopped. Both Captain Herve Jaubert and Princess Latifa were cut off.”

Jaubert said he saw, “three frigates” come alongside the Nostromo to corner it. He identified two of these as Samarth and Samar of the Indian coastguards, with naval helicopters on their landing pads. But he could not name any of the commandos, since, he pleaded, none was wearing a lapel on their uniform.

After Latifa was taken away, Jaubert maintained, Emirati troops mounted the yacht. It was then towed away by a naval ship to Dubai, where he, Jauhiainen and the crewmen were imprisoned for 12 days before being released.

Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates: “Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention.” India signed this treaty in 1982 and ratified it in 1995.

Shortly before the USA Today story was published this July, photos of Latifa in Spain appeared in media. A London law firm Taylor Wessing issued a statement attributed to her, which said: “I can travel where I want. I hope now that I can live my life in peace.”

Jaubert was sceptical: “It is difficult to reconcile that the woman who planned her escape for seven years and who recently (in February) released videos speaking of pressure in Dubai had bestowed upon her to agree to their (the Dubai authorities’) propaganda plan, is truly free.” The ‘Free Latifa’ campaign in London, in which Jauhiainen was active, has wound up.

Jaubert underlined: “In any event, she should never have been kidnapped from a US-flagged yacht in international waters. She was abducted and forced against her will to Dubai, with the help of India.” He reiterated: “We intend to pursue justice for the victims and accountability for those who orchestrated the violent, military attack on the Nostromo.”

Note: The public relations officers of the Indian Coastguards and the Indian Navy and the Joint Secretary (External Publicity) of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs were requested to comment on Herve Jaubert’s charges. They did not do so. In the event they reply on-record in future, such responses will be published.

https://thewire.in/world/french-captain-to-file-suit-over-2018-capture-of-dubai-princess-case-to-also-be-against-india

2018 ‘covert’ op that is embarrassing India

It is not anybody’s case that Princess Latifa was wanted for any crime in her home country and that we had only cooperated for rendering her to justice in the UAE. Our ‘unprecedented operation’, as per the daily, had involved ‘three Coast Guard ships, helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft’ to locate ‘a US-flagged yacht’ carrying the Princess and her friends.

Vappala Balachandran, The Tribune India
February 20, 2021

On April 27, 2018, a leading Indian business paper, quoting “highly placed government sources”, said that a secret Coast Guard operation was authorised at the highest level to intercept an unarmed yacht carrying “runaway” Dubai royal princess Latifa Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. This was after key national security officials felt it necessary to “secure India’s counter-terrorism and strategic interests.” However, new revelations in the form of secret videos released on February 16, 2021, would embarrass us further as this was apparently done without following the legal procedure.

If true, this was an unprecedented action as no such forcible “rendition”, as the Americans call it, was allowed by India in its history. I know personally that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not oblige even his personal friend, Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah, when he requested, through secret intelligence channels, the rendition of his key aide who had deceived him and escaped to the West through India with large sums of money. That was at a time when Najibullah was helping India through a number of sensitive operations to frustrate Pakistan’s covert war against us.

America justifies such demands based on Article IV, Section 2 of its Constitution which requires a state to hand over such fugitives if found within its jurisdiction. Also, America has been claiming “universal jurisdiction” since the 19th century against piracy on the high seas, quoting a judgment in United States vs Smith (1820). This has been criticised by human rights groups as it was originally meant against slaves.

“Extraordinary rendition” is adopted when such fugitives are nabbed with the help of local security services in a foreign country or merely kidnapped without following the legal extradition procedure. The first such case was in 1883 when the Pinkerton Detective Agency, their oldest private detective company, kidnapped one Frederick Kerr from Peru for a Chicago court.

In 1997, the CIA abducted Mir Aimal Kansi from a Pashtun tribal area with covert Pakistani police help for shooting and killing two CIA employees in 1993 outside their office in Langley. Kansi was executed in the US after a trial in 2002.

After 9/11, the US pressured foreign governments to agree to “extraordinary rendition” in which the fugitive was forcibly nabbed and sent to other countries for interrogation. Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA’s Rendition & Torture Programme, says that Pakistan had handed over more than 500 persons to the CIA after 9/11.

In 2009, Sabrina De Souza, a CIA employee of Indian origin, was convicted along with 21 CIA officials in absentia by an Italian court for aiding the abduction of a 9/11 suspect of Egyptian origin, Abu Omar, from Milan, Italy, in 2003 and forcibly sending him to Egypt in a US Air Force plane where he was tortured. The European Court of Human Rights had also imposed a fine of 70,000 euros on Italy to be paid to Abu Omar and 15,000 euros to his wife.

Faced with these embarrassments, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on July 26, 2007 to discuss “Extraordinary rendition, extra-territorial detention and treatment of detainees: Restoring our moral credibility and strengthening our democratic standing”. Quoting the Italian case, the then Chairman Senator Joe Biden, now the US President, had said in his opening statement that the controversial rendition programme had created a “toll on our relationship with some of our closest foreign policy partners” as it “operated outside the rule of law.”

It is not anybody’s case that Princess Sheikha Latifa was wanted for any crime in her home country and that we had only cooperated for rendering her to justice in the UAE. Our “unprecedented March 4 operation”, according to the above daily, had involved “three Coast Guard ships, including the state-of-the-art offshore patrol vessels Samarth and Shoor, helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft” to locate the “United States-flagged yacht, Nostromo, some 50 km off the coast of Goa” carrying Princess Latifa and her friends.

The paper had also reported that Latifa had said, at the time of apprehension, that she was seeking to escape torture inflicted on her and her elder sister Shamsa by their father, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. BBC’s investigative current affairs ‘Panorama Programme’ said on February 17, 2021, that they were releasing videos that Latifa had secretly recorded during her captivity in Dubai.

These facts were also judicially noticed by the London High Court which issued a “fact-finding judgment” on December 11, 2019, describing how the victims were nabbed by the Indian Coast Guards using smoke grenades or gas, together with gunshots after spotting them from air.

The judgment corroborated Latifa’s allegation that armed Indian Coast Guard forces commandeered her boat on March 4, 2018, from international waters 20 nautical miles off the coast of India. After boarding, they kept her face down on the floor with her hands bound. They threatened to kill Latifa, her friend Tiina Jauhiainen and others. They physically assaulted another friend Herve Jaubert, Tiina Jauhiainen and crew members and forcibly made them return to Dubai. At Dubai, they continued to mistreat them. Tiina Jauhiainen was denied any legal aid and forced to sign a false statement. Latifa was held against her will, locked in a house and her movements tightly controlled.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson, who was the UN Human Rights Commissioner, said on February 16, 2021 that she felt “horribly tricked” over her involvement in this affair. She said she was invited to Dubai by a “friend” in December 2018 where she attended a lunch where Latifa was present. This friend was none other than Princess Haya, the Dubai ruler’s wife, who is also suing him in the London court.

Robinson was later blamed by human rights groups when the Dubai administration released a photo of this lunch to prove that Latifa was safe and healthy. She was originally told of Latifa’s “bipolar disorder”, which she now feels she did not have. Robinson has now joined in calls for immediate international action in order to establish Princess Latifa’s current whereabouts.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/2018-covert-op-that-is-embarrassing-india-214895

Christian Michel’s Claims of Coercion, Torture Could Spark Fresh Diplomatic Challenges for India

A 35-page letter written by the Agusta scam ‘middleman’ to Boris Johnson could throw a wrench in Mallya’s extradition and comes even as a UN Working Group is expected to issue a ruling on Michel’s complaint.

Ashis Ray
February 8, 2021, The Wire

A 35-page letter written by VVIP chopper scam accused Christian Michel to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about his alleged mistreatment in Tihar Jail could prove to be embarrassing for the Narendra Modi government and potentially also affect the extradition of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya to India.

Michel, 56, is charged for his alleged role as a middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal.

He has been in Tihar Jail for 25 months and claims he was snatched illegally from Dubai in an “unlawful handover to the Indian authorities by the UAE as part of a quid pro quo for the return of (the daughter of Dubai’s ruler and the UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) Sheikha Latifa (by Indian coastguards)”.

In his letter, Michel says he is being detained (in Tihar) “in conditions that can only be described (as being) in flagrant breach of the fundamental guarantees under national and international law and breaches minimum standards for prisoners”.

Asked to comment on the letter, the British Foreign Office said: “The Foreign Secretary (Dominic Raab) raised it (the matter of Michel’s incarceration) with India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr S. Jaishankar, during his visit to India in December 2020.”

Michel’s description of his experience in Indian prison, if accurate, could possibly deter Britain’s consideration of the Indian government’s request to extradite Mallya, owner of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, to face justice in India.

Mallya’s extradition is awaiting a ruling by the UK’s home secretary Priti Patel, following the London high court rejecting the businessman’s appeal against deportation. There has, though, been a perplexing delay in Patel’s ratification since the court order was passed last April. It is widely reported – though not officially acknowledged in so many words – that Mallya has applied for asylum in Britain and this entreaty is being addressed at present.

UN group support?

Meanwhile, London lawyers Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers recently confirmed what was reported in December by the UK’s Mail on Sunday about a petition of complaint that Michel had filed with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on the matter.

“We fully expect the UN Working Group to rule that Christian is being arbitrarily detained and recommend his immediate release,” the law firm said, adding: “That ruling is imminent.”

A source at UNWGAD said: “Check in a week.”

Controversial chopper deal

In 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government ordered the Italian company Finmeccanica’s British-made AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters pursuant to an observation in November 2003 by the late Brajesh Mishra, principal secretary to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which said the “altitude requirement is unrealistic and has effectively led to a single vendor situation”. The contract was worth £500 million and the relaxation of the height requirement brought several helicopter vendors into the fray, the government said at the time.

The Narendra Modi government has alleged Michel had paid bribes to the Gandhi family of the Congress party to obtain the order. Guernica, who are acting on Michel’s behalf, maintained: “This unsupported allegation has been rejected twice by the Italian courts, due to the complete absence of evidence as to Christian’s involvement in any fraudulent activity.” One of the judges in Italy remarked the charge against Michel was “an accusatory hypothesis” and that there is “conclusively no evidence of corruption”.

Michel, a consultant in the armaments and aviation business, ran his operations out of Dubai. At the Modi dispensation’s request, Interpol issued a Red Notice in his name in 2015. He was consequently arrested in the UAE, but released on bail by providing a surety of £200,000 and debarred from departing the Emirates.

Guernica contended: “It is important to emphasise that the first request for Christian’s extradition from the UAE to India failed due to lack of evidence and the Indian authorities’ inability to substantiate the allegations.” It further pointed out that New Delhi renewed the extradition procedure after Latifa was returned to her father with Indian help; and also significantly, two days after Michel had refused to sign a confession presented to him by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The 19-page petition on behalf of Michel submitted to UNWGAD said Rakesh Asthana of the CBI met him in January 2018. It then said: “Mr Asthana produced a 20-page confession that he wanted the petitioner to sign this written confession incriminating him in the alleged corruption concerning the sale of AgustaWestland helicopters sold to the Government of India in 2010.”

Dubai princess case

In November 2019, litigation arose in the Family Division of London’s High Court between Maktoum and his sixth wife Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, half-sister of the present ruler of Jordan King Abdullah II, for the custody of their two children after cracks had appeared in the marriage. The fact-finding process focussed on two of the Sheikh’s older children, Sheikha Shamsa and Latifa.

Haya, Latifa’s stepmother, deposed to the court: “Latifa was forcibly returned to Dubai from international waters on 4 March 2018. That forcible return involved armed Indian coastguard forces boarding and commandeering the boat upon which Latifa was travelling in international waters, 20 nautical miles off the coast of India.”

In December 2019, Justice Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division, handed down in his judgement: “The description of the way in which Latifa was treated by the Indian security services and also, once the Arabic man (her father’s agent) had identified her, does not give any indication that this was a ‘rescue’ (her father’s story) rather than a ‘capture’.

From UAE to India

When the second extradition process was initiated after Latifa was returned by India to her father, Michel was once more summoned to meet with CBI officials.

This time, the petition to UNWGAD outlined, “he was asked to sign a forged budget sheet stating he had paid (the late Congress leader) Ahmed Patel and the Gandhi family. The petitioner states that he was told if he did this he would be made a witness to the proceedings and that all charges against him would be dropped, as well as the Red Notice being removed. However, he was threatened that if he did not cooperate he would be taken to India and detained in jail there.”

At the Dubai court in October 2018, Michel’s lawyer Abdulmunem Bin Suwaidan noted, the request should have come from the Indian home ministry, but had instead been presented by its ministry of external affairs; that inadequate and invalid evidence was submitted by Indian authorities; that the 2015 Interpol move for an arrest had said money to bribe Indian politicians had been paid by Finmeccanica to Michel “and his company Global Services – Dubai Free Zone Authority”, thereby meaning the crime had allegedly been committed by an UAE-based company and so he had to be prosecuted in the UAE; that the Indian pursuit of Michel was of a political nature (which according to the Indo-UAE treaty disqualifies an extradition demand); the request violated law governing double jeopardy, since a higher Italian court dismissed accusations against Michel; and Italy did not surrender Michel to India.

But these arguments appeared to not be convincing enough for the Dubai judge.

On December 4, 2018, Michel, the petition detailed, “was handcuffed, blindfolded and transported by a private jet” from Dubai to Delhi. “The process,” the application asserted, “was more akin to rendition as there was little recourse to a legal process.”

It went on to allege: “It is submitted that in the case of the petitioner, the treatment he has endured once extradited to India clearly amounts to torture.”

Michel was grilled by the CBI for 15 days after his arrival, with “the first night of interrogation lasting until 4:00am”. The petition also added that he was “threatened throughout that if he did not cooperate, he would be beaten and made to stand up all night”. It further alleged: “Every day following this the petitioner was interrogated for no less than 21 hours and in the very brief periods of time that he was able to sleep the guards proceeded to switch the lights on and off repeating the same statement over and over ‘Tell us you paid AP and the Gandhi family’.”

After 15 days, Michel was handed over to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Union Finance Ministry “where the same treatment continued”. Apparently failing to make progress, Naresh Malik of the ED emailed Michel’s Italian lawyer Rosemary Patrizi on January 14, 2019 seeking evidence against her client. This seemed to indicate the Indian agencies did not possess sufficient proof of his guilt prior to extraditing Michel from Dubai – a prerequisite for deportation, Patrizi claimed.

After being “interrogated for 600 hours over a 30-day period”,Michel was sent to Tihar, where he was put in an isolation cell reserved for dangerous criminals before a judge felt this was too extreme.

The submission also asserted the Modi government had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India acceded to in 1979. India is yet to ratify the Convention against Torture, which it signed in 1997. But Michel’s lawyers argued: “Under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, India is under an obligation not to defeat the object and purpose of a treaty prior to its entry into force.” A parallel plea on almost identical lines was made by a French human rights advocate Jessica Finelle of Paris-based firm Zimeray and Finelle.

UNWGAD is a highly confidential process. But on receiving the complaint, the body wrote to the Indian and UAE governments on May 8, 2020, on what it called “deprivation of liberty of Mr Christian Michel”. The UAE has not replied. On June 26, 2020 India’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva responded: “It is not correct to say that no due process was followed in extradition of Mr Michel.”

Michel’s Indian advocate Aljo Joseph told this writer, “He’s lost a lot of weight since being taken into custody, he didn’t have use of a proper toilet to start with and finds it difficult to eat the indifferent food offered to him.”

In a letter dated September 20 last from Tihar, Michel informed a prominent BBC broadcaster: “I am lodged in ward no 6 …..All of us [here] have one thing in common. We are all being pressurized to make a deal in exchange for our freedom.” He continued: “Each of the so called pillars of democracy (in India) have been ideologically politicized to a point of buffoonery.”

In the same communication he claimed he had previously corresponded with Home Secretary Patel, expressing outrage. “At the time,” he wrote, “I was incensed that the UK was still extraditing people to the failed state of India.” Barrister Toby Cadman, a co-founder of Guernica, attested: “Yes that looks like his (Michel’s) handwriting.” Patel was requested to comment on the claim. She neither confirmed nor denied receiving the letters.

Mallya case

The buck stops with Patel on the issue of Mallya’s extradition to India. Under rules of procedure in Britain, once a court orders deportation and this is not challenged at a higher court (in this case the UK’s Supreme Court), the country’s home secretary has to sign off or otherwise on implementation.

Her predecessor, Sajid Javid, did so after the magistrates’ court’s decision; but this was nullified by Mallya appealing to the London High Court.

Patel’s sense of judgment, though, has been called into question, following an inquiry last year which found evidence she had broken the ministerial code. Johnson ignored the finding. His independent adviser on ministerial standards Sir Alex Allan resigned as a result.

The Indian government has put relentless pressure on its British counterpart on Mallya’s extradition. The magistrates’ court’s judgement was not delivered until December 2018 and the London High Court did not reject Mallya’s appeal until April 2020. Yet, in March 2017, the late Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the subject with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond when they met in London. Notably, the then Prime Minister Theresa May broke protocol to join this meeting. Then in April 2018, Modi brought it up again with May.

This writer understands that the only British cabinet minister the Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam met during her term from November 2018 to April 2020 was Patel. Additional indirect persuasion on the latter, who as home secretary is a key arbiter on the matter of extraditing Mallya, has reportedly come from a section of Gujarati-extraction Britons, who are linked to UK-based front organisations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This includes the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – who were once warned by the UK’s Charity Commission for preaching hatred of Muslims to Hindu children – and Overseas Friends of BJP. They have pressurised British MPs with large Gujarati constituents and peers, who are beholden to them for making it to the House of Lords.

When foreign secretary Harsh Shringla visited London in November, he, too, called on Patel in what can only be described as a slightly unusual meeting for a senior Indian diplomat, who normally restrict his or her engagements to counterparts at the foreign office or mandarins at Downing Street.

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s recently published book Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy has also exposed facts unknown to British courts when they considered the Indian government’s application for Mallya’s extradition. On the Kingfisher Airline saga, he depicts in detail the 2017 arrests of five executives of IDBI Bank (who lent funds to Mallya) and four Kingfisher Airlines officials, who were placed in CBI custody without being granted recourse to a lawyer.

He narrates the executives were squeezed into one room and made to sleep on a durrie, with no pillows or blankets. The bankers arrested included Yogesh Agarwal, who was chairman of the bank when the last loan to Kingfisher Airlines was extended. He and B K Batra, former deputy managing director of IDBI, were kept behind bars for 54 days before they were released.

Even after 44 months a matter directly related to the charge against Mallya and touted as an open-and-shut case, was yet to go to trial, let alone be decided. It would be surprising if his lawyers didn’t highlight this to buttress their case.

Likely grounds?

If UNWGAD deduces Michel has been arbitrarily detained and recommends he be immediately released, Finelle said Indian authorities may be asked he be “compensated for the prejudice suffered” and the British government would have to take cognizance of the degrading and lawless treatment meted out to one of its citizens.

In other words, it could make it harder for the UK’s home office to justify denying asylum to Mallya. Michel’s letter to Johnson could add to the arguments towards that.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at London solicitors Zaiwalla & Co, when asked for his opinion, first clarified: “My firm has never been consulted by Vijay Mallya in respect of the Crown Prosecution’s extradition application or his reported asylum application.”

He, then, stated: “The UK Human Rights Act 1998 protects the asylum seeker even if the asylum seeker does not qualify for refugee status. (Mallya enjoys ‘leave of indefinite stay’ in Britain.) The Human Rights Act enables an English Court to prohibit removal when the return of the asylum seeker to the home country would otherwise result in a ‘real risk’ of ill-treatment in his home country contrary to Article 3 of the international Human Rights Convention. The risk of ill-treatment would include inhuman treatment; and the court will gauge applying western standards.”

Zaiwalla summarised: “I am not aware of the grounds and facts Mallya is relying upon to seek asylum. But in my view the reported long detention without bail or a quick trial of Christian Michel and the alleged torture he is said to have undergone during investigation whilst in detention would in my view themselves be likely grounds for Mallya succeeding with his asylum application.”

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were given opportunities to comment. Neither responded.

https://thewire.in/external-affairs/christian-michels-claims-of-coercion-torture-could-spark-fresh-diplomatic-challenges-for-india

UN to call for release of British businessman held in Indian jail over £500m helicopter deal

Charles Hymas
January 31, 2021, The Telegraph

Christian Michel alleges he was tortured in a notorious prison after refusing to sign a fake confession

The United Nations is to demand the release of a British businessman held without conviction in an Indian jail for two years over his role in a £500 million helicopter deal.

Christian Michel, 59, alleges he was tortured after refusing to sign a fake confession that he bribed Indian officials in order to secure the helicopter deal for the Anglo-Italian firm AugustaWestland for which he was acting as a consultant.

He has been held in the notorious Tihar jail in Delhi alongside murderers, rapists and terrorists since being extradited to India in December 2018 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he was working.

Toby Cadman, a leading human rights lawyer working pro bono to free him, said there was evidence of a “quid pro quo” deal in which Mr Michel was extradited after India handed over a runaway Dubai princess to the UAE following her capture by Indian coastguards when they boarded her yacht.

The Dubai princess – Sheikha Latifa – made headlines in 2018 with a YouTube video accusing her father, Dubai’s ruler, of kidnapping her sister after she escaped her family’s estate on a trip to Britain in 2000 and then keeping her in drugged isolation ever since.

Sheikha Latifa

A damning UK family court judgment found her father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum guilty of orchestrating the abductions of his two daughters – the other from the streets of Cambridge – in potential breach of international law.

Mr Cadman, of Guernica 37 chambers who also represented Princess Latifa, said the swap deal from the UAE, the imprisonment and treatment of Mr Michel was “arbitrary,” “inhumane” and flouted international law.

He said Mr Michel had been caught up in a “politically-motivated” case in which the ruling BJP party was trying to tar the previous Congress Party administration with corruption over the helicopter deal.

Mr Cadman has filed a petition of complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture which are expected to rule in favour of Mr Michel within weeks.

Mr Michel has also written to Boris Johnson from his prison cell, urging him to intervene both in his case and that of a British cellmate, Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, who has been held without conviction in India for three years on “false” terror charges and who also alleges torture.

In his letter seen by The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Michel said all he wanted was “unconditional bail.” He said he was prepared to stand trial but would not “bear false witness” to support the BJP party’s allegations of corruption.

“If I was going to run I would have run from Dubai,” he wrote. “My trial will take 20 years…I like India and Indian people, and after 20 years the trial will collapse as is normal in such cases, and most of the witnesses and accused will have died of old age.

“Prime Minister I request that you move on my requests, if not I am stuck and will have no choice but to go on hunger strike.”

The bribery allegations have been heard twice by an Italian court and rejected as “conclusively having no evidence of corruption.” Mr Michel’s extradition was initially refused by the UAE due to a “lack of evidence and unsubstantiated allegations.”

But an identical extradition application was submitted after India had handed over Princess Latifa to the UAE and it was accepted. Mr Michel was extradited to India where he claims he was questioned for 14 hours a day for two weeks without sleep.

The Indian Government has denied that “no due process was followed in the extradition” of Mr Michel or that he has been subject to torture.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/31/un-call-release-british-businessman-held-indian-jail-500m-helicopter/

Agusta accused Michel’s family takes his case to UN, alleges torture and arbitrary detention in India

Naomi Canton
April 24, 2019, The Times of India

The barristers’ chambers representing AgustaWestland helicopter scam accused Christian Michel’s family has filed a petition of complaint with the United Nations requesting an investigation into the detention and “ongoing ill-treatment” of the 57-year-old, claiming the charges against him are politically motivated, the detention is “arbitrary”, that he is being tortured and should be exonerated and released.

Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers in London filed an urgent communication on Wednesday with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture against both the UAE and the Republic of India in respect of Michel.

The UN working group will have to write to the UAE and India to get their responses before rendering its opinion. But it could recommend Michel’s release and award compensation to him, though it is not legally binding.

The Guernica 37 appeal states “the level of political interference with the case was such that it is devoid of an independent judicial process and can only be characterised as an unlawful transfer from one state to another”.

The petition alleges that Michel was “handcuffed, blindfolded and transported by private jet” when “unlawfully” extradited from the UAE to India in December 2018 and “taken in a hurried manner without the ability to challenge any decision”.

“The detention and any subsequent trial has not, and will not adhere to relevant fair trial standards,” the petition states.

It claims that in India “Michel has been held in squalid conditions”, sharing a cell in Tihar Jail with 45 others, conditions “that breach basic human rights conditions”, and that he has been “subjected to repeated and prolonged interrogations aimed at securing a confession through coercion, and subjected to ill-treatment of such severity that may constitute torture at the hands of the CBI and ED”.

It claims Michel was handed over to India as part of a quid pro quo following the Indian authorities’ “alleged involvement in the abduction of Princess Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum and her return to the UAE in March 2018”. That month the 33-year-old daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler was intercepted in a yacht off the coast of Goa and sent back to Dubai in a joint Indian-Emirati operation whilst attempting to flee her gilded prison lifestyle in the UAE to travel to the US.

Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer from Guernica 37 Chambers, who is advising the Michel family, told TOI: “It is anticipated that they will rule his detention to be arbitrary, in breach of international law, and that his extradition was unlawful.” He said whilst the findings of the UN working group were not legally binding, “failure to implement the recommendations could have consequences”.

He is the lawyer who took the Latifa case to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearance and recently was instructed to act for the government of India in the Nirav Modi extradition request, though he has since stepped down.

The communication adds that India’s extradition request “only came about following Michel’s refusal to cooperate in signing a 20-page confession incriminating himself in the alleged corruption” in January 2018, that his removal from the UAE was a flagrant denial of justice, and that the Italian high court had ruled that there was no evidence to implicate Michel.

“In filing this petition, Guernica requests that the UN Special Procedures Branch examine the circumstances of Mr Michel’s rendition, detention, and ongoing ill-treatment with a view to his release and exoneration being secured,” it states.

The CBI and the ED have filed chargesheets against Michel and he has been denied bail by the Indian courts.

He is accused of, during the UPA-led government, illegally bribing and criminally conspiring with Indian officials to win a contract on behalf of Britain’s only helicopter manufacturer, AgustaWestland, now renamed Leonardo Helicopters, for 12 VVIP helicopters from the Indian government.

On February 8, 2010 AugustaWestland won the contract, worth Rs 4,354 crore (€556 million). But the deal was scrapped in 2014 after allegations emerged that bribes had changed hands. The CBI claims Michel received Rs 330 crore (€42.3 million) from the helicopter manufacturer to pay bribes to Indian officials to secure the deal.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/agusta-accused-michels-family-takes-his-case-to-un-alleges-torture-and-arbitrary-detention-in-india/articleshow/69032024.cms

UN Body Seeks India’s Response to Charge of Complicity in Abduction of Dubai Princess

Rejimon K.
May 23, 2018, The Wire

The princess was sent back to the UAE after the yacht she was traveling in was allegedly forcibly boarded by the Indian Coast Guard in international waters.

Princess Latifa’s passport.

Thiruvananthapuram: The action of the Indian coast guard – apparently with authorisation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in forcibly boarding a US-registered vessel in international waters off the Goa coast, abducting a woman  and handing her over to United Arab Emirates commandos – has come under international scrutiny with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) writing to the government of India seeking an explanation for the woman’s disappearance.

The woman – Sheikha Latifa, daughter of Dubai ruler and UAE prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – went missing on March 5, 2018, some 50 kilometres off the coast of Goa, with French-US national former spy Hervé Jean Pierre Jaubert, and a third person, Tiina Jauhiainen, a long-time friend of Latifa, while they were on a US-flagged yacht, the Nostromo.

In a message she recorded before setting sail, Latifa said she was fleeing the UAE because she no longer wished to be oppressed by her father.

Toby Cadman from Guernica 37, the law firm representing the princess and her two friends, told The Wire that given the unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and  suspected torture of Sheikha Latifa, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers has invoked the special procedures of the OHCHR, specifically the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment requesting their urgent and immediate intervention.

“And now, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) has transmitted the urgent communication, filed by Guernica 37 IJC, to the UAE and India in order to provide them the opportunity to respond to the allegations concerning their involvement in Latifa’s enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention and to provide justification for a joint-military operation that culminated in an unprovoked attack on a US-flagged yacht in international waters, the unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of all those persons on yacht,” Cadman added.

Asked what response they had received, if any, from either India or the UAE, the WGEID secretariat in Geneva told The Wire, “The proceedings of the WGEID are confidential and we cannot disclose information on the individual cases.”

According to Radha Stirling, CEO of the NGO Detained in Dubai and the last person who talked to the princess before she went missing, the Dubai royal was fleeing her father and trying to migrate to the US via India. This plan was reportedly put to an end by Indian forces acting upon a request from the UAE.

In a message she recorded prior to fleeing Dubai in March in what turned out to be a doomed attempt to reach the US via India, Latifa described the details of her detention in the UAE, her abuse, her earlier kidnapping as well as the kidnapping of her sister. She also said that she feared for her life.

“She instructed me that her messages ought to be publicly released if she hadn’t managed to flee the UAE for the world to learn about her ordeal suffered at the hands of what is clearly an autocratic and controlling regime,” Stirling told The Wire.

In her 40-minute-long video, Latifa states “I have left the United Arab Emirates, but I am not out of danger’.

Her account from recordings that have been independently verified appears to describe a system of abuse that requires international intervention.

“In her last [message] Sheikha Latifa appeared to be highly distressed and in a state of panic,” Stirling said. The messages were sent by WhatsApp as armed men, said to be from the Indian Coast Guard, boarded the yacht.

She said, “Radha please help me, there are men outside. I heard gunshots.”

“Latifa was panicking and described how the Nostromo was under attack with men attempting to board. She said she was hiding with her friend and had heard several gunshots,” Stirling told The Wire.

On March 5, following the events of the previous evening, and with no further contact from Latifa, Stirling wrote to the Metropolitan Police in London.

Radha Stirling’s letter to the UK Metropolitan Police.

“The purpose of the letter was to report both the princess and Jaubert are missing so that inquiries could commence,” Stirling added.

The UK Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they have referred the matter to the UK National Crime Agency and Interpol to investigate. 

David Haigh, a British lawyer and partner at Detained in Dubai, himself a victim of torture in the UAE and currently pursuing a criminal complaint against the UAE, said, “When Princess Latifa put her trust in us and appointed Radha and I at Detained in Dubai to represent her and protect her in her bid for freedom from torture and abuse, it was clear to us that an application to the United Nations special procedures branch was an essential step in seeking to achieve this.”

The Princess’ message to Detained in Dubai.

“We are fortunate to have a close working relationship with the renowned Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers and were able to secure Toby Cadman’s attendance at the UN in Geneva within hours of Princess Latifa going missing. The United Nations and the international community are to whom we must look, when unelected dictators seek to position themselves above the law. No one is above the law and we look forward to the United Nations acting rapidly to ensure that Latifa is free and safe and able to live her life as she, and no one else, chooses,” Haigh added.

Meanwhile, quoting Jauhiainen, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Indian Coast Guard participated in the raid in coordination with UAE authorities.

“On Sunday 4th March 2018 as night fell we what were off the coast of Goa, India when we were attacked by Indian secret service and military, including the Indian Coast Guard.” Tina said, “Around 15 men came onboard fully masked, in armoured black clothing, with machine guns and laser sights. They used what was some kind of gas that filled the boat was smoke. It was the most terrifying experience of my life, The Indian men had their laser sights on me and Latifa and they were telling me they would shoot me and kill me. I was thrown against the floor, stood on and found myself in a pool of blood. At this point I thought they had killed Hervé and I thought I was next. They told me again and again that they would kill me and held me on the edge of the boat, threatening to push me into the sea. We were cuffed and forced to lie down.”

After the operation, which ended with the Indian coast guard handing over the Nostromo to UAE military personnel – all of this in international waters – the latter sailed the boat back toward the UAE, with Latifa, Jauhiainen, Jaubert, and the crew locked below deck.

After four days, they were transferred to a UAE naval vessel, and three days later arrived back in the UAE.

“State security officials took me to a facility that her captors described as a secret State Security Department detention centre for people who represent a ‘threat to national security’,” Jauhiainen said.

Following several long rounds of interrogation, during which Jauhiainen said her interrogators threatened her repeatedly with the death penalty and solitary confinement, she said she admitted to actions she did not commit, such as sending out the video of Latifa.

After another four days of solitary confinement, according to HRW, “interrogators told [Jauhiainen] they would release her if she videotaped a confession and signed several documents where were in Arabic that she could not read, which she did.”

Princess Latifa’s UAE identity card.

Jauhiainen said she later signed what she thought to be a non-disclosure agreement written in English banning her from speaking about the interrogation and Latifa.

On March 22, Jauhiainen said the UAE authorities allowed her to return to Finland, but they kept her computer and various other items from the boat. She said they allowed Jaubert and the crew to leave the country on his boat around the same time. In interviews to Mid-Day, BBC and other media platforms, Jaubert has said unequivocally that the Indian Coast Guard had boarded his yacht.

UAE influencing Interpol

Stirling also raised questions about Interpol, alleging that the UAE had leveraged a donation of $50 million to abuse the Interpol system.

“[The UAE authorities] routinely report individuals to Interpol over frivolous matters that do not fall within Interpol’s mandate, and frequently use the international policing organisation as an auxiliary tool for debt collection,” she said.

For example, the UAE reported a French national, Christian Elombo, to Interpol and sought his extradition on a false charge of kidnapping, after he was released from an Omani jail for allegedly driving Latifa inside Oman. They later dropped their demand.

“They have also reported Jaubert to Interpol, although they themselves released him from custody, essentially as revenge against his having spoken out about everything that happened,” Stirling said, adding that this sort of habitual abuse of Interpol is damaging to the organisation’s credibility.

Rejimon K. is a Panos Fellow journalist and a migrant rights activist for the last one decade with Migrant Forum in Asia. He is currently an India-Arab Gulf Senior Investigator at Equidem, which probes workers rights all over the world. He is also a fellowship advisor for Ethical Journalism Network and a media resource person for International Labour Organisation.

Note: This article was edited at 2:18 pm on May 23 to add the response received from the WGEID Secretariat in Geneva.

https://thewire.in/diplomacy/un-body-asks-india-to-respond-on-dubai-princess-disappearance

Narendra Modi signed off ‘capture’ of Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa

Hugh Tomlinson, Delhi
May 2, 2018, The Times

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, a daughter of Dubai’s ruler, claimed that she had suffered years of abuse at the hands of her family. She has not been heard of since she was captured
DETAINED IN DUBAI/AP

The Indian prime minister authorised an operation to seize and repatriate a Dubai princess who had fled the Gulf, alleging torture by the ruling family, it has been claimed.

In the latest twist to an extraordinary tale involving the princess’s escape with a former French spy, which ended at gunpoint off the Indian coast, a report in India has claimed that Narendra Modi sent in the coastguard to stop the pair at the request of Dubai’s royal family.

The prime minister is said to have approved the interception of her yacht, in an alleged breach of international law, on the advice of security officials who advised him to act “to secure India’s counter-terrorism and strategic interests”.

Mr Modi has cultivated closer ties with the United Arab Emirates since taking office, striking agreements on cybersecurity, trade and counterterrorism with the oil-rich Arab monarchy.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, 32, the daughter of Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and UAE vice-president, fled the Gulf state in early March. In a video sent to the group Detained in Dubai, the sheikha claimed she had suffered years of abuse at the hands of her family and was held a virtual prisoner.

She was helped by Hervé Jaubert, a 62-year-old former French secret agent turned businessman who had himself made a remarkable escape from Dubai years earlier.

Accused of defrauding a company owned by the royal family, Mr Jaubert said he was threatened with torture and barred from leaving the country. Wearing scuba gear under a burka, he fled by sea in 2010, swimming underwater before stealing a boat to escape to international waters.

He picked up Sheikha Latifa after she slipped out of Dubai into neighbouring Oman and together they set out for India on a US-registered yacht, the Nostromo. About 30 miles off the coast of Goa, however, the boat was stopped by a small armada of armed ships and a helicopter and boarded by the Indian coastguard.

The princess and Mr Jaubert were taken back to the UAE. He has since been released but Sheikha Latifa has not been heard from.

The raid was authorised by Mr Modi and co-ordinated by Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, according to the Business Standardnewspaper, citing senior government sources. “There is no illegality . . . In this case we acted because we were informed that the individuals on the yacht were sought by the UAE for a crime,” an Indian diplomat told the paper.

Another government source admitted that India had not sought a formal legal request from the UAE to apprehend the princess, though the two countries do share an extradition treaty.

The two governments have made no comment about the raid to capture Sheikha Latifa. “We have nothing to say on this. We are not aware of this incident,” a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs said yesterday.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/narendra-modi-signed-off-capture-of-dubai-princess-sheikha-latifa-thvqjsjxt

India Returned Runaway Dubai Princess to Protect Strategic Interests

Praveen Swami
April 27, 2018, The Wire

India located the US-flagged yacht, Nostromo, some 50 km off the coast of Goa.

The operation, which the sources said was coordinated by national security advisor Ajit Doval, led to the rendition of the 33-year-old princess, who has said she was seeking to escape torture inflicted by her father. (Credit: PTI)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi authorised a secret Coast Guard operation to intercept a yacht carrying runaway Dubai royal Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum after key national security officials advised it was necessary to secure India’s counter-terrorism and strategic interests, highly placed government sources have told Business Standard.

The unprecedented March 4 operation involved three Coast Guard ships, including the state-of-the-art offshore patrol vessels Samarth and Shoor, helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft.

India located the US-flagged yacht, Nostromo, some 50 kilometres off the coast of Goa.

New Delhi has so far declined to either confirm or deny the operation took place. “No such incident has been brought to our notice”, a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said in response to a query from Business Standard. The Coast Guard did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The operation, which the sources said was coordinated by national security advisor Ajit Doval, led to the rendition of the 33-year-old princess, who has said she was seeking to escape torture inflicted by her father, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

In a pre-recorded video released online after her arrest, Princess Latifa said she and her elder sister, Shamsa, had been beaten, tortured, threatened, detained, and forcibly drugged for years because of their efforts to seek personal freedoms.

Princess Latifa, eyewitnesses on board the yacht have said, was handed over to UAE military personnel by the Coast Guard even as she demanded asylum — sparking an international row over India’s action.

Former French intelligence officer Hervé Jaubert and Princess Latifa’s friend Tiina Jauhiaien were also handed over the UAE by the Coast Guard, but subsequently released after pressure from western diplomatic missions on the UAE.

In an interview to the Helsinki Times, Jauhiaien said “15 men came onboard fully masked, in black clothing, with machine guns and laser sights. It was the most terrifying experience of my life”. In the interview, Jauhiaien said Princess Latifa, whose passport was held by her family, planned to land in Goa and then fly to the United States to seek asylum.

Lawyers representing Princess Latifa did not respond to email from Business Standard asking how she intended to enter India without legal travel documents.

In New Delhi, two officials familiar with the Coast Guard action said, acted after personal messages were received from Prime Minister al-Maktoum seeking assistance in seizing the United States-flagged yacht, which, he claimed, had been used to kidnap his daughter.

“There is no illegality,” one Indian diplomat said. “Indian and international laws authorise the government to intercept foreign-flagged vessels to enforce customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws in the contiguous zone and even further. In this case, we acted because we were informed that the individuals on the yacht were sought by the UAE for a crime.”

London-based law scholar Abhimanyu George Jain, however, told Business Standard that “if the interception and subsequent detention are sought to be justified on the basis of Indian immigration law, in the absence of further facts, at the very least there would be an obligation of due process”.

He added that if India was aware the princess had faced torture, “both international and Indian law would prohibit returning her to Dubai.”

A government source admitted India did not seek a formal legal request from the UAE for Princess Latifa’s return. But, he added, “We have to respect other countries’ laws, domestic political institutions and interests if we want similar treatment in return.”

The operation, interestingly, took place even as Indian and UAE officials were engaged in final negotiations for extradition of 1993 Mumbai serial bombings accused Farooq Yasin Mansoor, also known as Farooq ‘Takla’, who was returned to face trial on March 8.

Alleged by the Central Bureau of Investigation to have arranged transport for bombers linked to ganglord Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, Mansoor had been sought by Interpol for over 20 years.

Nineteen of 64 fugitives extradited to India have been sent by the UAE, including alleged Indian Mujahideen financier Abdul Wahid Siddibapa, Lashkar-e-Taiba linked terrorist Abdul Sattar, and a slew of 1993 bombing perpetrators.

In addition, a number of suspects wanted in ongoing investigations have been quietly forced to return home, without formal legal process — notably alleged Islamic State financier Moinudheen Para Kadavath and Indian Mujahideen suspect Faizan Ahmed.

New Delhi has also cultivated a deep strategic relationship with the UAE, which is India’s fifth-largest source of hydrocarbons. In addition to holding a 10% stake in a UAE oilfield, India’s underground strategic petroleum reserves near Mangaluru are also being filled by the country.

https://thewire.in/diplomacy/india-returned-runaway-dubai-princess-to-protect-strategic-interests