Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum has not been seen in public since March.
But in a shocking new development, the government of Dubai has finally broken its silence to claim the princess is safe and well — despite fears she has been killed or is being drugged and held against her will.
Princess Latifa, the 33-year-old daughter of Dubai’s leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, fled the conservative United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a daring escape nine months ago.
After plotting her escape with a team of people sympathetic to her cause, including her martial arts instructor Tiina Jauhiainen and former French spy Hervé Jaubert, Princess Latifa drove across the border into Oman before boarding a boat headed for the Indian coast.
However, the boat never reached its destination.
Instead, it was stormed by commandos who captured the royal rogue, and she has not been seen since.
Her social media accounts were shut down, and there has been no evidence of her communicating with the outside world since her disappearance on March 5.
On Wednesday — Latifa’s 33rd birthday — Dubai’s Royal Court finally released an official statement regarding her whereabouts.
“Her Highness Sheikha Latifa is now safe in Dubai,” the statement reads.
“She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today, in privacy and peace, and to building a happy and stable future for her.”
The statement also said Princess Latifa was “adored and cherished” by her family, who were “deeply saddened by the continued media speculation” about her safety.
It also alleged Princess Latifa had not tried to escape but had instead been kidnapped by Mr Jaubert, who had held her for a $US100 million ($A138 million) ransom.
However, the statement has done little to quell fears, thanks largely to a video released by the Princess herself shortly before her capture.
“My father is the most evil person I have ever met in my life,” she said in the clip.
“He’s pure evil. There’s nothing good in him.
“If you are watching this, it’s not such a good thing. Either I’m dead or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation.”
She also claimed she had previously attempted to escape at age 16 before being caught, imprisoned and drugged.
And Princess Latifa’s fate seems to echo that of her older sister Shamsa, who has also not been seen in public since she attempted to flee her family’s clutches in England in 2000.
Non-government organisation Detained in Dubai, which helps people who have been victimised in the UAE, claims Princess Latifa called their offices from the boat as it was attacked.
CEO Radha Stirling told the UK Telegraph Princess Latifa’s story “seriously punctures” the UAE’s “highly controlled self-image” of being a tolerant and moderate nation.
“The UAE has refused to acknowledge their illegal attack on the vessel from which she was abducted and completely ignored a United Nations inquiry into her enforced disappearance,” she said.
“Given Latifa’s grave allegations against her father, Sheikh Mohammed, and considering the fate of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the UAE’s ally Saudi Arabia, we are deeply worried about Latifa’s welfare.”
Meanwhile, Mr Jaubert told Sky News Princess Latifa may have been killed.
“Maybe Latifa did not make it. I’m not sure she is alive,” he told the network.
Guernica Chambers, which is representing Ms Jauhiainen and Mr Jaubert in legal proceedings, has also released a statement.
“If it is that Sheikha Latifa is with her family, and that this is a family matter for which she seeks no public concern, then why is she prevented from communicating this publicly, or to any individual that she considers to be a friend,” The Mirror reported the statement as saying.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Sheikha Latifa remains detained against her will.”
Originally published as New twist in missing princess mystery