Herve Jaubert is a naval engineer by trade, with expertise in electronic warfare and security. He is a former lieutenant commander of the French navy, where he worked in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism for the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), focusing particularly on former communist countries and the middle-east. He retired in 1993.
Jaubert moved to Dubai in 2005, where he had been offered a job building submarines. Like many covered in this series, Jaubert found himself accused of fraud by the authorities in the UAE. Although he denied the charges then, and continues to deny them to this day, his passport was taken from him upon his detention, and he was ordered to pay $1.5 million to get it back.
“Not only did I not want to pay for something I did not do, but I could not trust them with the time of day,” Jaubert explains. “I have seen people forced to pay, and when they did pay, they were asked for more.”
So Jaubert promised to pay the money, telling the authorities that he needed some time to raise the $1.5 million. Pending the payment, he was placed under house arrest, giving him time to prepare his escape. In April 2008, disguising himself in what he called a “burka,” he made a break for it.
[Detained in Dubai: Stories of Injustice in the Gulf – XI]
“I bought a boat under a different name, I asked a friend to ship me my frogman gear [Navy Seal breathing gear]. I then escaped on a dinghy, to international waters. There I waited for a friend to bring me my boat, then we sailed to India,” Jaubert recalls. “I had the experience from my years in the clandestine operations service to do this . . . . Dubai knew I was a former operative, but they were so arrogant they did not care,” he continues in his characteristic style. It was an experience the Dubai security services would learn from for their later dealings with Jaubert.
They convicted Jaubert of embezzlement in absentia in 2009.
To have pulled off such an escape, without a passport, visa, or assistance from foreignstates, was a remarkable achievement. Jaubert chronicled the events in a book, Escape from Dubai, and a documentary film of the same title.
“People have to understand that the [UAE] borders are not there to keep people out, they are to keep people in,” Jaubert told Inside Arabia, a sentiment with which regular readers of this series will be all too familiar. “It is extremely complex to get out of there when the government wants to keep you and get money from you.”
According to Jaubert, no one is safe from the authorities in the UAE, not even members of the royal family itself.
According to Jaubert, no one is safe from the authorities in the UAE, not even members of the royal family itself, and Jaubert says he fears for the safety of Princess Latifa, Princess Haya, and Princess Shamsa. Latifa and Shamsa are daughters of Sheikh Mohammed who escaped the country and were subsequently recaptured. Haya, one of the Sheikh’s wives, and a recent escapee in June of this year, is currently in hiding in London.
“Sheikh Mohammed disregards completely laws that are not his,” warns Jaubert. “He disregards UK law because he kidnapped Shamsa before from the UK. He disregards the US and international laws because he attacked a US flag yacht in international waters, and his official even told me when I was held hostage, that sheikh Mohammed could get me anywhere if I talk to the media . . . . Based on this I can only say that HRH [Princess Haya] is in grave danger. What she knows about Sheikh Mohammed could remove him from power, so he is not going to let her talk publicly. Maybe they will settle over a large sum of money or she is kidnapped in 6 months, but she will not say anything.”
Speaking in the context of UK-UAE arms and oil contracts, Jaubert adds wryly: “Sheikh Mohammed has no laws that pertain to him, he will do what he wants, and the UK will vouch for it, because they know who butters their bread.”
Following his escape, Jaubert became an infamous figure in the UAE, loathed by the country’s authorities and idolized by its prisoners in equal measure. It was because of this reputation that the most high profile of these captives, Princess Latifa, reached out to him for help in 2011. Jaubert’s reputation also meant that the UAE security forces learned from the mistakes that had allowed him to escape in 2008.