The government of the United Arab Emirates was circling Herve Jaubert, growing increasingly certain that he was one among a cast of unscrupulous businessmen from the West whose collective greed brought an end to the economic boom in Dubai.
But before Jaubert could be arrested, he abandoned his villa and fleet of luxury cars, fleeing the country in a rubber dinghy. A perilous journey that ended, it seems, in the bucolic environs of Wellington. Jaubert is the centerpiece of a Washington Post article about Western businessmen who either ransacked Dubai or -- if you believe Jaubert -- were convenient fall guys for a sheikdom whose blunders are the real reason that city's economy is in freefall.
Add that getaway to his past life as a French spy, and Jaubert can probably make his next million by writing his memoirs. (I swear I found the book only after I wrote that sentence.)
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With his background in espionage, it's no surprise that Jaubert managed to secretly record what he claims was an interrogation with Dubai police. He played the recording for the Post:
"We will insert needles into your nose again and again," a security officer can be heard telling Jaubert, the spy turned submarine-maker, on an audio recording, which the Frenchman said was made on his cellphone during an interrogation before he fled. "Do you know how painful it is to have needles put inside your nose repeatedly and then twisted around? Do you think you can resist this kind of pain?"
Jaubert said the interrogation was conducted by two men in long white robes in a bare, windowless room on April 22, 2007, at Dubai's Al Muraggabat Police Station. On the recording, the interrogators described themselves as state security officers, with one warning Jaubert that "we are above the police, we are above the judges. We can keep here you forever."
A bit of exagerration that last part. Convicted of embezzling $3.8 million, Jaubert gets a five-year prison sentence if he gets caught on U.A.B. soil. Fat chance of that.
For a peek at how Jaubert was living in his most recent past life, check out this article from 2007 when he was still a luxury sub maker in the Persian Gulf. Or, as Jaubert put it, "I'm a poet who builds submersible yachts for rich people."