Dubai ruler's high-profile divorce will expose mistreatment of wife, daughters and other women close to him, says royal family insider
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of UAE risks exposing several secrets as he is embroiled in a multi-million-pound divorce battle with his estranged wife Princess Haya in the British courts, according to an insider in Dubai's royal family.
Marcus Essabri, the Sheikh's nephew, has now broken his silence to claim the divorce will show the world how his uncle mistreated Princess Haya and his cousins Princess Shamsa and Princess Latifa, Daily Mail reports.
"The one person who knows the truth about what happened to my cousins Latifa and Shamsa is Princess Haya," Essabri told Australia's TV news show '60 Minutes'. "I hope that she uses the court case to tell the world how they have been treated. She has the opportunity to do some good for these poor women.'
Essabri's mother is sister to one of Maktoum's six wives. He has now demanded an update on Princess Latifa's condition and her treatment after she fled the kingdom last year claiming she had been drugged, caged, and tortured.
The 33-year-old princess had managed to be on the run for three weeks before she was captured on a yacht off the coast of India and taken back to Dubai.
Meanwhile, no one has seen or heard from Princess Shamsa for the past 20 years, ever since she attempted to flee the kingdom at age 19.
The princess had driven out of Maktoum's Surrey mansion and was able to remain hidden for six weeks. She was later nabbed while walking on a street in Cambridge and flown via private jet back to Dubai.
At the time, a missing person's report was filed with the Cambridgeshire Police. However, officers dropped the case after being told there was no prospect of speaking with Shamsa in Dubai.
Her father subsequently sentenced her to eight years in prison, per the report, and she has never been spotted in public since she returned.
It is said that Shamsa's disappearance and treatment inspired Princess Haya to flee to London and seek a divorce from the Sheikh.
The 45-year-old princess is the youngest of Maktoum's wives, and is currently holed up at her £85m ($106m) mansion in Kensington as she awaits a court hearing that will decide on their divorce and the subsequent custody of the pair's two young children.
Essabri, 48, told the outlet the hearing is likely to expose what really goes on inside Dubai's royal family, revealing Shamsa, his favorite cousin, had told him beforehand of her plans to escape.
"She sent me letters asking me for my help and told me how she was not allowed to attend university," he said. "Her life was not her own."
Essabri then spoke to his aunt and told her how unhappy her daughter was, and was later shunned by other royal members for doing so.
"The family did not like being told that something was wrong and all contact was broken," he said. "I have had nothing to do with them ever since. They did not like anyone speaking about Shamsa."
Essabri said no one within the Dubai royal family would ever speak to him about Shamsa's escape and capture, adding he was stunned when he saw Princess Latifa's video last year.
In the clip, Latifa spoke about her sister and how she was kept in a drugged state at the behest of their father, adding that seeing her situation she had decided to seek a new life in the US.
According to some human rights groups, Latifa is still being kept in a drugged state and is currently unable to leave Dubai. These groups have been campaigning for her release with the backing of top QCs in London.
With that said, Essabri told the outlet there was a pattern to women close to the Sheikh wanting to leave the kingdom.
"With Princess Haya leaving people will see that there is a pattern. Three women in his life have all fled from his control. What does that tell you about the man and what he is like," he said. "Princess Haya has the opportunity to reveal what has really happened to Latifa and Shamsa. This is a great opportunity for her to step up and help them."
Applauding Essabri's decision to come forward, David Haigh from the Free Latifa Campaign said it was a major step in their fight to ensure the Princess's safety.
"Marcus is the first person connected to the Dubai royal family to have the courage to speak up. He has proof that Shamsa wanted to escape for a new life," he said. "The information contained in the letters that he has kept from Shamsa show that she wanted a new life and help to escape. Once the police see these letters we are hoping they will re-start their investigation into her disappearance."