Gulf Finance House, the ex-owner of Leeds United, has been targeted by a remarkable online attack in which contact details of senior officials were published by a Twitter account belonging to its own private equity firm.
A feed run on behalf of GFH Capital, the Dubai-based arm of GFH which bought Leeds in 2012, began attacking the bank yesterday in a series of rogue tweets aimed at the bank and leading employees.
The development came after a week in which GFH Capital’s official website began displaying a newspaper report alleging financial wrongdoing by the bank during its takeover of United two years ago, an accusation GFH denies.
Tweets on GFH Capital’s feed yesterday afternoon published what it claimed were private phone numbers of Hisham Alrayes and Jinesh Patel.
The account, which had been dormant since November 2012, began posting the extraordinary messages around lunchtime.
Alrayes is chief executive of GFH and was a board member at Elland Road until he resigned from that post in September 2013.
Patel is GFH Capital’s chief executive officer, a job he took up earlier this year. He holds a different role to Salem Patel, an existing Leeds director and GFH’s current head of investment management.
GFH owned Leeds for 14 turbulent months before finally selling a majority share in the club to Massimo Cellino in February.
The Bahraini investment bank continues to hold a 10 per cent stake and manages a minority shareholding of 25 per cent.
In a statement released last night, GFH denied that the online sites had been hacked and blamed “associates” of former GFH Capital CEO and ex-United managing director David Haigh for the breaches.
“We can confirm that there has been no compromise of our corporate computer systems,” the statement read.
“We have now established that the ex-deputy CEO of GFH Capital, David Haigh, retained administrative rights over these web accounts after his employment ended and we believe that Mr Haigh, through his associates, is responsible for these malicious attacks on our web presence.
“We are taking urgent action to recover these web accounts and will pursue legal action against those that have perpetrated and assisted in these malicious acts while spreading false accusations and misinformation.”
GFH is currently involved in a bitter legal dispute with Haigh.
The 37-year-old was arrested in Dubai in May after GFH accused him of misappropriating more than £3m of funds during his time as GFH Capital’s CEO.
Haigh, who denies the claims and says he has evidence of wrongdoing by others at GFH, has been imprisoned without charge for the past six months.
He resigned from his post at GFH Capital in February but flew out to the Middle East on May 18 to discuss the offer of a new job from the firm.
Haigh was arrested by local police shortly after arriving at the company’s offices.
Yesterday’s tweets included what appeared to be text messages from Alrayes ordering the sacking of former Leeds manager Brian McDermott in January.
GFH is understood to have called for McDermott’s dismissal at half-time of a 6-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on January 11.
Haigh - the only Leeds board member present at the game - refused to carry out the order and McDermott continued in his post.
Despite residing in a Dubai Police Station, Haigh’s twitter account has directed a series of critical messages at GFH this week.
One of them, which was posted on Tuesday, read: “Everything starting to fall into place about the real wrongdoing and wrongdoers. Reports made to law enforcements agencies.”