They were ambushed at sea by commandos 'enforcing Islamic law' [ video ]
A former spy who claims he was threatened with execution for trying to help a Dubai princess flee to America in a daring sea rescue has opened up for the first time about his terrifying ordeal.
Jean-Pierre Hervé Jaubert, 62, said he was beaten, blindfolded and interrogated for hours under the threat of death after being seized by soldiers acting on the orders of the billionaire ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
He had allegedly ordered his forces to swoop on Jaubert’s yacht after discovering the ex-counter intelligence officer had helped Princess Latifa Maktoum, 33, flee Dubai and seek political asylum.
Jaubert, a dual French-American national, claimed he was repeatedly told he would never see his family again in a UAE prison. He was held with Princess Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen, 41, a glamorous Finnish martial artist who was also involved in the failed escape.
The pair said they spent days being interrogated for up to 20 hours without food and water.
They were released without charge after MailOnline broke the story of Princess Latifa’s bid to start a new life and the authorities in Dubai knew they could not keep their capture and imprisonment secret, they said.
In a video, Princess Latifa had described how she was kept as a virtual prisoner in her own home and was desperate to lead a normal life away from her allegedly controlling father.
She paid over £300,000 to enlist the help of Jaubert and Jauhiainen for her escape.
Jaubert said: 'From the moment we were captured, I was told I would be executed. They said I would never see my family again and I believed them. It was terrifying. I had already been beaten when they boarded my yacht.
‘No one knew where we were and all the time we were in Dubai we were being held in prison. They could do what they wanted.’
Jauhiainen was convinced that she would die. ‘I have never been so scared in my life,’ she said. ‘The interrogation would go on for hours and whatever they said the men kept on saying I was lying. It was awful. They just kept on asking all the same questions and I tried to tell them I was telling the truth.’
The pair’s ordeal began after they sailed in international waters off the coast of Goa on Jaubert’s US-registered yacht Nostromo.
Princess Latifa and Jauhiainen had managed to leave Dubai by car and drive to the Oman coast where Jaubert was waiting to pick them up and sail to India.
The Princess – who claimed she had previously been jailed by her father for three years as a teenager for trying to leave the country – had financed the escape bid.
She already had a lawyer in Florida ready to apply for political asylum and had told Jaubert she was so desperate to leave she would ‘rather flip burgers’ that stay in her own country.
The Princess had first contacted Jaubert at his home in the Philippines after reading how he had fled from Dubai in 2008 amid accusations of corruption by dressing up in a burka to fool immigration agents.
Jaubert agreed to help and after months of secret communication with the Princess he was in place off the Oman coast by the end of February.
Jauhiainen and the Princess were picked up by Jaubert from a secluded beach on a jet ski and taken to the Sailboat "Nostromo".
After a week at sea, Jaubert claims they were being tracked by reconnaissance planes and 50miles off Goa they were boarded by the Indian coastguard.
Jaubert said: ‘They threw stun grenades on the deck and I was beaten to the ground. Blood was coming from my head but they continued to kick and punch me. They were brutal and held a gun to my head all the time.’
Jauhiainen and Princess Latifa hid below in a cabin along with three Filipino crew members, but were dragged at gunpoint up to the deck.
‘When I came up, they had the red laser sights from their guns on my body. It was terrifying,' she said.
‘I was dragged to the side of the yacht and they held my head over the side and asked if I wanted to die. They said I could make it easier if I just jumped in the sea and drowned.'
Jauhiainen said they saw Princess Latifa being dragged off the boat. ‘She was screaming for the men to shoot her, saying she would rather die than be taken back to Dubai,' she said. 'They would not listen to her. She was saying she wanted political asylum.’
Jaubert was taken back to his yacht and Jauhiainen was put on an Emirates flight to London.
She said: 'I cannot describe the relief I felt when the plane landed at Heathrow. I knew then I was finally free and just wanted to be back with my family in Finland.’
Jaubert was not allowed to make contact with his family for six days as he sailed to Sri Lanka. As a dual French-American national, he has filed a complaint with the FBI over his kidnapping.
He said the Indian authorities, who were acting on the orders of the Dubai ruler, have to be held to account. Meanwhile, campaign group Detained In Dubai, which is fighting to free the princess, plans to use every legal avenue to force the Dubai authorities to reveal what has happened to her.
Video : Hervé Jaubert talks about the attack on Nostromo
‘It is immoral and criminal that a country can act in this way’, said Stirling. ‘We are doing everything we can to find out what has happened to Latifa. They have tried to silence Herve and Tiina and that has failed.
‘Before her capture Latifa made other videos that contain very damaging allegations against Sheikh Maktoum.’
The nonprofit has been boosted in their campaign by support from internet entrepreneur Kim Dot Com. In a series of Tweets, he pledged his support to find out what has happened to the Princess.
‘Spread the word about the bravery of Princess Latifa. A victory for her is a victory for all oppressed women in the Middle East. Your time has come,' he said in a tweet.
The United Arab Emirates Embassy refused to comment.