Anthony Harwood, a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail, says the recent High Court ruling that Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, Princess Shamsa, was kidnapped off the streets of Cambridge is a triumph for justice
It was a court ruling which not only exposed how ruthlessly the ruler of Dubai pursued his family around the world, but also shed light on how the British government was only too happy to help him.
Twenty years ago, the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum was snatched off the streets of Cambridge, sedated and flown back to the United Arab Emirates where she hasn’t been seen since.
It was the sort of rendition you might expect for a hardened terrorist, not a 19-year-old princess.
Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that the kidnap of Princess Shamsa ran ‘contrary to the criminal law of England and Wales, international law and internationally accepted human rights norms’.
So much for the much-trumpeted ‘ethical foreign policy’ of the late Robin Cook.
He was the British foreign secretary who allegedly shut down the Cambridgeshire Police inquiry into what had happened to the helpless girl – because he didn’t want to upset one of the UK’s allies.
Shamsa had called police from Dubai seven months later begging them to investigate her abduction, but it appears her cries for help fell on deaf ears.
Kidnapping runaway daughters from the streets of foreign cities is, sadly, to be expected from billionaire Arab rulers. It’s what they do when things don’t go their way.
But it’s not the type of behaviour you’d expect Her Majesty’s government to turn a blind eye to.
Four years earlier, in the aftermath of Labour sweeping to power, Mr Cook had made his famous speech promising to make Britain a ‘force for good in the world’ with arms control measures – and a focus of human rights.
Don’t princesses have human rights?
And having got away with kidnapping one daughter, the sheikh was at it again the following year when another, Princess Latifa, tried to escape in 2002, only to be recaptured and shut away for the next three years.
The second bid for freedom in 2018, when she was aged 32, ended in failure when Maktoum ordered commandoes to snatch her from the high seas as her boat neared the India coast.
What he didn’t know was that just before setting off Latifa had uploaded a video to the internet detailing the physical abuse meted out by her father which the High Court ruled was credible and amounted to torture.
A lot of this would never have come to light had wife no.6, on learning about what happened to the two princesses and fearing what might be in store for her own young children, not fled the country with them.
And worry Princess Haya might when you consider how the court heard how her 11-year-old daughter, Jalila, was being lined up for an arranged marriage with the notorious crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
Bin Salman, 34, who already has one wife, is the man who the CIA believe ‘most likely’ ordered the murder of the Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
As the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, Haya is a woman of independent means but, even so, she’s played a blinder.
Divorced in secret by Al Maktoum after he discovered she was having an affair with her British bodyguard, the former Olympic showjumper fled to the UK in a private jet with her children.
Well, you would if you came home to find a gun with the safety catch off lying on your pillow and heard your son being told by his father on the phone: ‘We don’t need your mum anymore, do we?’
The sheikh’s bid to have his son and daughter returned through the courts in London has now backfired with him losing the children after he was shown to be an unfit parent.
You can see why.
Not only did the court find that Maktoum had orchestrated the kidnap of both his daughters but Shamsa has now been ‘deprived of her liberty for much if not all of the past two decades’.
You have to laugh at how the Sheikh hired a barrage of eight lawyers to try and stop the media being able to report the hearing because it intruded into the privacy of his children.
Showed him up for being an abusive parent more like.
As they flit about in their gilded cages, Shamsa and Latifa must wonder what kind of lives Jalila and half-brother, Zayed, will be able to enjoy.
Will they be free to go about in Western society or will they forever fear the sound of footsteps behind them as Emirati agents try and snatch them too?
After she ran away last year, Princess Haya received a text from her ex-husband saying: ‘You and your children will never be safe in England’.
But by getting her children made wards of court in the UK, Princess Haya may just have secured enough legal protection for them from Sheikh Mohammed, now 70.
After all, were anything to happen to them, the multi-billionaire horse owner as the prime suspect would no longer be able to rub shoulders with The Queen at Royal Ascot.
And that surely wouldn’t do.