Footage of a missing Dubai princess scuba diving in her palace as she prepares to flee her family has been shared with Sky News, along with new pictures of the young woman.
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the daughter of Dubai’s ruler.
In March, Princess Latifa fled the UAE and a video was circulated online in which she made allegations of abuse at the hands of her father.
Today, her 33rd birthday, marks almost exactly nine months since she was last seen.
Her case sounds stranger than fiction, but has been accepted by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, while the UN group on enforced disappearances heard evidence on her case earlier this year.
She attempted to escape with the help of French former spy Hervé Jaubert and long-time friend Tiina Jauhiainen.
After fleeing through neighbouring Oman, she made it onboard Mr Jaubert’s boat, The Nostromo, and set sail for the Indian coast.
The yacht was intercepted and those on board say they were beaten by armed men who boarded the ship and then detained in the UAE.
Both Ms Jauhiainen and Mr Jaubert say Latifa shouted that she was seeking asylum in India but was taken onto a helicopter. It is the last time they ever saw her.
“Latifa was determined to leave Dubai… She said it was worth taking any kind of risk as she had literally had enough of her life in Dubai,” Ms Jauhiainen told Sky News.
“She was looking forward to the day impatiently and when with me it was the only topic we would talk about along all the things she wanted to do when she had what she had always wanted, her freedom,” she added.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Jaubert said: “Maybe Latifa did not make it. I’m not sure she is alive.”
In a statement to Sky News, the Dubai Ruler’s Court said: “We are aware and deeply saddened by the continued media speculation regarding Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum. This private family matter has caused significant upset and distress for all concerned, most of all Sheikha Latifa.”
They add: “Her Highness Sheikha Latifa is now safe in Dubai.
“She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today, in privacy and peace, and to building a happy and stable future for her.”
Never before seen photos shared with Sky News show Latifa feeding lion cubs with Ms Jauhiainen, sky diving and spending time with friends.
As well as a video of Latifa laughing with Ms Jauhiainen, another friend and her child, a short clip shows the princess training for her future escape by scuba diving in her family pool.
The video was taken by Ms Jauhiainen on 12 February 2018 in the grounds of the princess’s mother’s grand home.
Ms Jauhiainen said she drove the scuba gear and underwater scooter to the building that housed the pool.
“At this point the plan for Latifa’s escape was still for her to dive using a rebreather, diving gear, dive computer and an underwater scooter from UAE to Oman crossing the border…a distance of nearly 10 km underwater,” Ms Jauhiainen told Sky News.
“Training was a problem. One time we managed to go to her uncle’s beach house to practise but visibility was so bad that she couldn’t try out all the gear simultaneously.
“This time I was allowed to go inside her compound to ‘exercise’ but actually the plan was to test the gear.”
Ms Jauhiainen said they decided to abandon this escape plan after encountering too many problems.
Emails seen by Sky News show Latifa, who said she tried to flee the UAE aged 16, approached Mr Jaubert about a second escape attempt back in May 2012.
“My ultimate goal is to never return to this country again,” she writes in coded emails to Mr Jaubert, in which explains she hopes to gain refugee status in the UK or other Western countries.
A glimpse of Latifa’s nature can be seen in this email correspondence, where among worries for her own safety and those helping her, she speaks of trying to make sure her pet monkey is safely re-homed ahead of her running away.
In her emails, Latifa explores ways to bring her sister, Shamsa, with them on their escape attempt.
Cambridge police began an investigation into claims Shamsa was kidnapped off the streets of Cambridge in 2000.
In the Dubai Ruler’s Court statement, they also said: “Sheikha Latifa and Sheikha Shamsa are adored and cherished by their family.
“Unfortunately, Sheikha Latifa was vulnerable to exploitation primarily by Mr Herve Jaubert, a man with a criminal record. He and his accomplices demanded payment of a ransom of USD $100 million, shortly after Her Highness disappeared from Dubai, for her return.”
NASA invites Stephen Curry to tour its lunar lab after NBA star claims moon landings were faked
NASA has offered a top US basketball player a tour of its lunar lab after he claimed the moon landings were faked.
Stephen Curry, regarded by many as one of the best shooters in NBA history, made the comments in the Winging It podcast on Monday.
During the episode, Curry’s teammate Andre Iguodala asked the basketball player and presenters Vince Carter and Kent Bazemore if they believed the moon landings were real.
All three of them replied “no”.
In an apparent reference to Men In Black-style secret agents, Curry added: “They’re going to come and get us.
“Sorry I don’t want to start conspiracies.”
Another guest on the show Annie Finberg, a digital content coordinator for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, then asked him to clarify.
Curry, who plays for the Golden State Warriors, confirmed that he did not believe the US had ever landed on the moon.
The group then had a short discussion about popular conspiracy theories, including one that the film director Stanley Kubrick staged the whole thing.
NASA in fact led six missions that put 12 astronauts on the moon between 1969 and 1972.
Allard Beutel, a spokesman from the space agency, told the New York Times: “We’d love for Mr Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets.
“We have hundreds of pounds of moon rocks stored there, and the Apollo mission control.
“During his visit, he can see firsthand what we did 50 years ago, as well as what we’re doing now to go back to the moon in the coming years, but this time to stay.”
Curry is far from alone when it comes to denying the legitimacy of the moon landings.
DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles shocked viewers of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! when he claimed the lunar expeditions were faked.
EU risks bank crisis from ‘no-deal’ Brexit, say UK officials
UK officials have been warning EU27 nations that a “no-deal” Brexit places a high risk of financial disruption to their banks, Sky News understands.
It forms part of a move seen by some close observers as a perceived form of attempted leverage over the Brexit negotiation.
Dozens of banks, including some of Europe’s biggest in Germany and France, have complex outstanding financial contracts, known as derivatives, notionally worth tens of trillions of pounds, operated through the City of London.
The bulk of them will mature after March 2019.
Sky sources say that the names of specific EU mega-banks especially exposed to and reliant on UK cleared derivatives have been mentioned in discussions.
Last month, the Bank of England warned there was high risk of disruption to the EU financial system from both “cleared” and “uncleared” derivatives markets, while it said risks to the UK itself were low and declining.
The European Commission has acted on some concerns to say it will temporarily continue to recognise UK “central counterparties” even after a no-deal Brexit.
But officials have warned that the lack of detail means that contracts need to be closed or transferred from the UK before March 2019, a process that needs to start this month, now that the deal has not passed the House of Commons.
Furthermore, the European Commission indicated to the Bank of England that risks from “uncleared” derivatives would not be dealt with at EU level, and was being left to individual EU nations to handle.
In a recent report, the Bank of England concluded: “The movement of a large volume of contracts in a short time frame would be costly to, and disrupt the derivatives positions of, EU businesses and could strain capacity in the derivatives market.”
An EU source told Sky News: “We have not dealt with it yet but we have the mechanisms.”
The European Commission is waiting to ramp up no-deal preparations at the EU summit this week.
Sky News understands an emergency implementing act is being prepared for the EU Council and Parliament to consider as soon as next week.
One dead in French Christmas market shooting
One person has died and three people are seriously injured after shots were fired at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.
Just after 7pm on Tuesday gun shots were heard at the market in Place Kleber, in the centre of the city in eastern France.
Police armed with machine guns were seen running into the square moments later and it was evacuated.
Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament, which is based in the city, said there was panic and everyone got to the ground in restaurants around the square.
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