Indian forces reportedly seized Dubai's Princess Latifa and handed her over to Dubai in exchange of a British arms dealer involved in a bribery scandal as part of a prisoner swap. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Christian Michel was extradited to India from Dubai just weeks after Latifa was captured from a boat in Indian waters and handed over to her father Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Latifa since then remains hostage of her billionaire father. The new revelations come just days after a series of video clips secretly recorded by Latifa were released wherein the princess claims to have been held captive in a villa in Dubai since 2018. Latifa has endured a difficult relationship with her father over the years resulting in her trying to escape his kingdom twice.
India's Vested Interest
According to the Daily Mail report, British arms dealer Michel, who was living in Dubai, was extradited to India just a few days after Indian special forces seized Latifa off the coast of Goa in March 2018 while she was trying to flee Dubai. The United Nations, according to the report, has now officially linked the extradition to Latifa's capture and called for Michel, who is accused of accepting a $55 million bribe to sell British-made helicopters to India, to be released.
A report by the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention says the charges against Michel are politically motivated. Although, it does not mention Latifa by name, it gives clear hints that the princess was the person who was traded in exchange of Michel in that deal.
"Mr Michel was told that his extradition was in exchange for the earlier seizure and return of a high-profile detainee to Dubai, despite the detainee's plea for asylum by Indian forces which intercepted the detainee's yacht in international waters off the coast of Goa in March 2018," reads the report, according to the outlet.
Michel, who had been living in Dubai, was extradited to India just six months after the incident. India had previously requested for Michel's extradition but was rejected by Dubai courts after Indian authorities failed to produce any 'serious' evidence of corruption.
The UN report is likely to only create further pressure on Dubai to reveal more about Latifa and her well being and whereabouts. Despite being asked for 'proof of life', authorities have refused to disclose anything about the runaway Princess, saying that she is being cared for her family.
India too never commented on its role in capturing Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhianen from the yacht Nostromo. The two were seized near Goa in 2018 just eight days after escaping from Dubai. However, India too, probably, didn't initially realize that Latifa was trying to escape from the clutches of her father.
It is believed that Indian special forces leading the raid were told that Latifa had been kidnapped and they simply acted as rescuers. But the UN report now unravels a new story, that of a prisoner swap.
Michel is accused of bribing and criminally conspiring with Indian officials to win a contract on behalf of British helicopter manufacturer Augusta Westland for 12 choppers in 2010. Michel was alleged to have received $55 million in kickbacks for securing the deal. He became wanted following investigations in India where he was charged for bribing Indian politicians and officials to secure the helicopter contract.
That was in 2016 but India's requests to extradite him failed till he was swapped for Latifa. Michel, on the other hand continues to be in Indian jail. He has time and again complained of being tortured by being subjected to repeated interrogations since his extradition. He is still awaiting trial.
The revelations about the prisoner swap come after an investigation into the events surrounding Michel's extradition by the UN working group. The 16-page report there was no legal basis for detention of Michel and the charges he faces are politically motivated.