- India Today
Phone tracking spyware likely used to capture Dubai princess, claims former aid
Former French Naval officer Hervé Jaubert, who planned and executed Dubai’s princess Latifa’s failed escape plan three years ago, has said that a geo-location malware in a phone on his yacht most likely revealed their location and led to her capture.
Now, the former French Naval officer who helped Emirati princess Latifa escape from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in early 2018 has claimed that Latifa’s capture could have been made possible with help of malicious software used to track the compromised cell phones likely carried by Latifa’s friend.
Hervé Jaubert planned Latifa’s escape for years and was responsible for its execution three years ago. Speaking exclusively to India Today TV, Jaubert has said that it was highly unlikely that there was any other way to track Latifa, who was hiding in his yacht, this far from the UAE jurisdiction on the eighth day of their escape.
Sheikha Latifa’s friends have been maintaining that their boat was attacked in March 2018 near the coast of Goa and the princess was forcefully captured and sent back to Dubai.
Before this half-successful exfiltration operation of the princess, Jaubert had staged an undetectable escape from the UAE for himself.
His own successful escape from Dubai earned him the trust of Latifa who contacted Jaubert back in 2011.
Jaubert had been in contact with the daughter of Dubai’s ruler for almost seven years prior to their attempted escape in February 2018.
Jaubert had found ways to secure their conversation with the princess during this period.
“Princess Latifa contacted me a long time ago in 2011, she wanted to leave UAE and move to the US, it took a long time to set up the escape plan. We had long conversations and I secured our conversation. I made sure that no one could intercept our communication” Jaubert explained.
Pointing towards the possible use of geo-location malware, he added that unlike the satellite phones it was easier to track the possible location of a mobile phone once it is compromised with specific software.
Implying that most high-value cell phones in the UAE are likely compromised, he said, “If it was a phone from anywhere else it might have been ok but a phone from Dubai is compromised, it was an absolute no-no to take with them a phone from Dubai,” Jaubert added.
Speaking to India Today TV, Jaubert said that the two mobile phones were brought to his boat without his knowledge and against his strict directives. He confirmed that he had explicitly told the princess and her friend, not to carry any cell phone with her.
“I explained her (Latifa) the technology and told Latifa, before you escape, leave your phone behind and I told the same to her friend, not one or two times but twenty times and she acknowledged,” Jaubert said.
Latifa was accompanied by her fitness trainer and friend Tiina Jauhiainen on February 24 when they took a trip to Oman and later met Jaubert on his US-registered yacht Nostromo. Jauhianinen and Latifa also took a selfie during the first leg of this trip.
Earlier, Canada-based independent interdisciplinary laboratory Citizen’s Lab had revealed that the notorious spyware firm NSO Group’s phone snooping software Pegasus was used to target individuals in the UAE. Another report claimed that the phone snooping spyware was sold by the Israeli firm to the UAE government for millions of dollars.
THE INDIAN ANGLE
The boat Nostromo sailed with Latifa, Tiina, Jaubert and three crew members on February 24, 2018, from Oman and sailed towards India across the Arabian Sea. The eyewitness account by Jaubert alleges that his boat was attacked by Indian forces in a “vicious attack” on March 4, 2018, in the international waters. The Government of India had refuted these allegations.
In January 2018, then-MoS for External Affairs VK Singh told the Parliament that the reports of the government repatriating the Emirati Princess following an operation by the Coast Guard were not true. Jaubert on the other hand, claims that the operation involved “500 personnel including navy warships and helicopters”. Without divulging further details, Jaubert has said that he is initiating further legal actions in this case.
DISSENT WITHIN THE CAMPAIGN
Recently, BBC’s investigative news programme Panorama showed secret videos filmed by Latifa where she alleged that she was been kept hostage in a barricaded villa by the royal family.
The string of videos supposedly filmed months back by Latifa using a smuggled phone stopped recently. Latifa’s friend Tiina and UK-based lawyer David Haigh have co-founded the Free Latifa campaign which has petitioned the UK government and the United Nations to intervene.
However, Jaubert who once was a key character in Latifa’s struggle to attain freedom, has his own doubts.
“I don’t want to be associated with these people,” he said.
He claimed that making noises and online campaigns are going to do very little to help Latifa at this stage.
“She is a hostage in solitary confinement and vulnerable, when I see these videos where Latifa says she contacted this person or that person I see a red flag because it looks like Latifa is being coached to say this and it’s dangerous,” he said.
He cites his own example and says that his seven years of secret conversation with Latifa remained secret.
Jaubert advocates for covert diplomatic solutions which in his opinion are more likely to help the princess at this stage than the online campaigns.
Recently, the United Nations asked the UAE for proof of life in this case.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that the UN has “expressed concerns regarding the situation, in light of the disturbing videos” adding that the global body has asked the UAE government for proof of life.