Inside the luxurious lives of disgraced, deposed leaders in Dubai

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Just days after Ashraf Ghani fled his homeland — allegedly with a helicopter stuffed with more than $169 million in cash — the former Afghan president emerged in his new safe haven: Dubai, a veritable Disneyland for deposed despots.

Dubai accepted Ghani, who has denied escaping with such riches, on “humanitarian grounds.”

If history is anything to go by, unlike other refugees in Dubai who live in tent communities in the desert, the former Afghan president is living a life of luxury in his new home.

The United Arab Emirates, which is comprised of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and five other principalities, welcomes disgraced leaders with aplomb — especially ones who have hordes of dubiously gained cash or who could be useful in diplomatic chess games.

While Ghani finds his footing — and his daughter, Mariam, lives an artist’s life in a luxury Brooklyn loft — here are some fellow high-end refugees he can hang out with while he’s spending time in the UAE:

Former Pakistani prime minister, Pervez Musharraf

Former Pakistani President in exile in Dubai.
Paris Match via Getty Images

The one time president of Pakistan, who led the country from 2001 to 2008, was facing treason charges and had been on a no fly list for years, when he was granted the okay to leave due to medical concerns in 2016. Musharraf immediately fled to Dubai, where he has been living comfortably in a $1.6 mill apartment in Dubai’s South Ridge Tower 6 ever since. Amenities in the building include a “Pre-cooled fresh air system,” along with more familiar luxuries such as sweeping views of the world’s tallest building, known as the Burj Khalifa, swimming pools, garden centers, 24-hour security, and a library.

Former Thai prime ministers, Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra

Thai Former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra
Thai Former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra now call Dubai home.
The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag

Politics is a family business for the Shinawatra family, formerly among the richest in Thailand. Thaksin, a telecoms billionaire, was elected in 2002, but kicked out in 2008 due to corruption charges — first fleeing for London before making his way to Dubai. His younger sister Yingluck then tried her hand at politics, but was forced from office in 2014 after a coup and scandal over her government’s plan to subsidize rice growers. By 2017 she had fled, escaping before being sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on negligence charges. Thaksin has since moved into a palatial Dubai mansion, which is encircled by Thai orchids and where he has six Thai servants on call, while Yingluck obtained Serbian citizenship, according to The New York Times.

Former Spanish King Juan Carlos

King Juan Carlos of Spain
Former King Juan Carlos of Spain made the UAE his official residence after abdicating the throne.
Getty Images

The erstwhile Spanish king was forced to abdicate in disgrace in 2014 after he went hunting with his longtime mistress in Botswana, while Spain was in the midst of an economic crisis. In 2020 he fled his homeland altogether amidst multiple corruption charges — including accusations that he accepted $100 million as a present from the late Saudi King Abdullah. He resurfaced at the $15k a night Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, but later made his official residence a multi-million dollar mansion on the nearby Zaya Nurai Island. He’s even been spotted entertaining Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed at his six-bedroom manse, which is more than 11,000-square-feet and boasts seven bathrooms, a swimming pool and access to a private beach, according to El Pais.

Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan

Palestinian parliament member Mohammed Dahlan
Former Palestinian parliament member Mohammed Dahlan lives in a waterfront mansion in Abu Dhabi.
Getty Images

Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah security chief and foe of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, ditched a prison sentence in 2011 for Abu Dhabi, where he quickly found employment as an advisor to crown prince bin Zayed. Dahlan now lives in a waterfront mansion in Abu Dhabi and obtained Serbian citizenship in 2015. He once rented a $2 million Serbian palace, which was later purchased by his associate.

Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh

Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh
Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh lived under house arrest in Abu Dhabi for several years.
AFP via Getty Images

After Yemen’s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was assassinated in 2017, his eldest son lived under house arrest in Abu Dhabi for several years due to his support of the Yemeni Houti rebels. He is now an “ambassador” and is presumed to be either back in Abu Dhabi or Saudi Arabia.

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