In February 2018, Latifa Al Maktum, then 32 years old, dared to flee. By car to Oman, with a fast rubber dinghy into international waters, from there by jet ski to a sailing yacht, she wanted to Sri Lanka – away from her father, the Emir of Dubai. She had already been on the yacht with helpers for several days when they tracked down the Sheikh’s agents at the beginning of March and brought them back to her father.
In the United Arab Emirates, there are strict laws against what is considered immoral behavior. In order to enforce these laws, the authorities use so-called spyware. In recent years, this has been a growing topic of debate and discussion.
Now, for the first time, the German broadcaster ARD has been able to confirm the use of a spyware product called “Pegasus”. This can be used to monitor all smartphone activities of a person. The newsmagazine Der Spiegel reports on this.
According to the report, the daughter of the Emir of Dubai, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, was spied on by the Emirate’s authorities. Latifa is the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Sheikha Latifa had planned to escape from Dubai with the help of a former French spy, Hervé Jaubert. But in March 2018, her escape attempt failed. The Emirate’s authorities then sent a military unit to intercept her and Jaubert.
It is now known that the Emirate’s authorities used the Pegasus spyware to monitor the phone of Sheikha Latifa and that of Jaubert. Even the yacht of Jaubert was bugged with Pegasus.
Sheikha Latifa was then forcibly brought back to Dubai. She was apparently imprisoned there because she has not been seen in public since then.
The Emirate’s authorities have now admitted to using Pegasus to monitor the daughter of the emir. They said that this was done “in accordance with the local laws.”
It is not yet clear if Germany has exported the Pegasus spyware to the United Arab Emirates. The Federal Government has already stated that it is not allowed to export spyware to countries that violate human rights or that use it for internal repression.
At least 17 media organizations in different countries reported that “Pegasus” had been used to spy on journalists, government officials, and human rights activists around the world. The product from the Israeli software manufacturer NSO is one of the most modern spy programs ever and can completely monitor cell phones.