Ex-Leeds United boss Haigh hails Dubai cyber-slander appeal decision

5 April 2016. Former Leeds United Managing Director David Haigh at the Soho Hotel in London.
5 April 2016. Former Leeds United Managing Director David Haigh at the Soho Hotel in London.
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Former Leeds United managing director David Haigh said his “two-year nightmare” was at an end after a Dubai court rejected a bid to over-turn his acquittal on “cyber-slander” charges.

Mr Haigh, who worked at Elland Road for just over a year in 2013-14, returned to the UK in March, nearly two years after being arrested on suspicion of fraud and embezzlement.

He was later convicted of taking more than £3m from his former employers Gulf Finance House, and was sentenced to two years in prison, the majority of which he had already served.

Shortly before he was due to be released last November, he was charged with a further offence of slander over comments made on Twitter while he was in jail.

He was acquitted of ‘cyber-slander’ in March following an intervention by campaign group Human Rights Watch, and returned home to the UK shortly afterwards.

Mr Haigh who led GFH Capital’s negotiations to acquire Leeds United from former owner Ken Bates, now says that an appeal against the acquittal, following a further complaint by GFH, has been rejected by a different court.

The 38-year-old, from Cornwall, tweeted last night: “Innocent! After a two year nightmare. Now to dedicate my time to help others, and eat a pasty or two!”

He says he now plans to appeal his existing conviction for ‘breach of trust’ and make a criminal complaint about GFH to the Dubai courts.

Mr Haigh said: “For this alone I was in jail for six months. I was very lucky to get out, technically they should not have released someone from jail until [the complainant] has decided whether they want to appeal.

“To me this is important, it is two courts that have found me innocent. I can now go to court and complain about GFH from a criminal perspective.

“Cyber-slander is a serious thing because in that country it is up to three years in prison and it is a huge fine.

“The country uses it as a way of controlling the people, it is an easy way to get someone arrested.

“I want to highlight the dangers of this law, you can imagine how many people go to Dubai on holiday without knowing how dangerous this law can be.”

A spokesman for GFH said: “Unlike Mr Haigh, GFH believes that these matters should be dealt with via the appropriate legal channels rather than social media.

“Nevertheless, it is appropriate to clarify and correct the blatant misinformation being published by Mr Haigh on his Twitter feed.

“We can confirm that the judgement of the criminal courts in the UAE convicting Mr Haigh of embezzlement still stands. Mr Haigh was properly convicted of this crime and spent two years in jail as a result of it.

“Freezing orders issued by the DIFC Court and the English High Court also remain in place against Mr Haigh’s assets. This matter is still being dealt with by the DIFC Courts.”