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Leeds United: GFH claims against Haigh laid bare

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  • by Phil Hay
 

The details of Gulf Finance House’s claims against former Leeds United managing director David Haigh were laid bare today in a document detailing an astonishing list of financial allegations.

In a case being heard before the civil courts in Dubai, GFH is accusing Haigh of creating almost £3m of false invoices during his final 19 months as deputy chief executive of the bank’s private equity arm, GFH Capital.

GFH alleges that Haigh, 36, falsified payments to four separate parties for a range of services, some of them related to his time as managing director at Leeds and GFH’s reign as owner of the club.

Haigh, who has been under arrest in Dubai since May 18 and denies any wrongdoing, faces claims that a spate of illicit bank transfers authorised by him as a GFH Capital employee were made to accounts unconnected to the companies or people supposedly receiving the funds.

The firms and individuals concerned - Lincoln Associates, Millnet Limited, GPW and David Murray, a lawyer with Fountain Court chambers - provided GFH Capital a variety of services including legal advice, IT support and investigative work.

Among the investigations carried out by GPW was one entitled ‘Project Athena’, the background dossier compiled on current Leeds owner Massimo Cellino prior to his takeover of the club.

GFH’s claim against Haigh states that Project Athena was commissioned by him on October 6, 2013 - four months before Cellino’s interest in United became public and almost two months before Haigh reached his own agreement to buy Leeds from GFH through his Sport Capital consortium.

The cost of that single investigation - one of nine carried out by GPW on GFH’s behalf between August 2012 and October 2013 - was set at more than £36,000, though GFH says the agreed fee was never paid.

GFH began negotiating its purchase of United from former chairman Ken Bates in May 2012 and bought the club in December of that year. The Bahraini bank sold a 75 per cent stake to Italian businessman Cellino this April.

The other investigations allegedly authorised by Haigh, the details of which remain private, included ‘Project Looper’, ‘Project Offside’, ‘Project Spectator’ and ‘Project Offside’.

Haigh is also accused of falsifying fee notes relating to a series of court cases, totalling more than £1million. The cases include ‘LUFC v Ken Bates and others’, ‘Jct 24/7 v LUFC’ and ‘Mark Taylor v LUFC’. Taylor is a former Leeds director and acted for many years as Bates’ solicitor.

A judge presiding over the case in Dubai yesterday granted a request from GFH for an interim order freezing all of Haigh’s global assets.

Deputy Chief Justice Sir John Chadwick also agreed to allow a search of a property belonging to Haigh in Dubai. The matter is expected to return to court on June 17 when the interim freezing order expires.

A source close to Haigh told the YEP that he would “vigorously contest every one” of GFH’s claims. His address is listed in the court documents as ‘c/o Bur Dubai Police Station’, the location where he has been held for the past 17 nights.

The allegations against Haigh make up a civil case, and prosecutors in Dubai have as yet brought no criminal charges against him.

GFH’s claim covers the period from August 2012 to March 2014, all but four of the months in which Haigh sat a board member at Elland Road.

He took up the managing director’s position in July 2013 and negotiated the role of club chief executive during Cellino’s takeover, but a breakdown in his relationship with Cellino saw him resign and quit the club in early April.

Haigh is currently in the middle of another court battle with Cellino after Sport Capital served a winding-up petition on Leeds over a loan of £950,000.

The sum - borrowed by United in November of last year - was called in by Guernsey-based Sport Capital at the beginning of April and followed up by a winding-up petition after Cellino failed to repay the loan.

United’s bank account has been frozen as a result, preventing payment of wages to their playing squad last month, but Cellino’s legal team are contesting the petition and fighting to have it withdrawn.

The Italian believes he has documentation showing that money received in the name of Sport Capital was not paid by the offshore firm but by Haigh himself.

His lawyers intend to argue that the money is “potentially proceeds of crime” in light of Haigh’s arrest in Dubai.

A judge will rule on Sport Capital’s winding-up petition during hearings in London next Monday and Tuesday.

Read the document in full

 

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