The sister of former Leeds United managing director David Haigh has told of the “devastating effect” her brother’s year spent in a Dubai prison cell has had on their family.
Mr Haigh, the former deputy chief executive of Dubai-based bank GFH, has been held in custody without charge since May 18, 2014, when he was arrested on suspicion of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering.
GFH alleges that Mr Haigh, who protests his innocence and claims he was lured to Dubai under false pretences, defrauded it of £3m by falsifying invoices and diverted money into accounts controlled by him.
Last week, his case suffered a blow when the Dubai courts refused to release funds from his frozen bank account to pay his legal team.
This resulted in him being left without representation.
Mr Haigh’s sister, Ali Thomas, 40, has had to quit her job as a language teacher because the strain meant she could not focus on her role.
The mother-of-three, who lives in Cornwall, said the loss of his lawyers in a country where legal proceedings are carried out in Arabic was “heartbreaking”.
Mrs Thomas said the last time she saw Mr Haigh was on May 17, 2014, when she went to see him in London while on a work course.
She said: “He told me he was packing to go to Dubai to discuss a new job with his former employers.
“As I was travelling back to Cornwall he was flying out to Dubai and that was the last time I saw him.
“It’s been a year of disappointments and disbelief. The effect on the family has been devastating.
“To have to watch someone you love hurting and not be able to do anything about it is horrible.
“The children are heartbroken, they think the world of him and really miss him.
“Special occasions are the worst; we really feel the emptiness in our lives.”
Mrs Thomas, whose 11-year-old daughter has a potentially fatal illness meaning she cannot process protein, plans to write to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai, about her brother’s situation.
She also intends to contact her new MP Derek Thomas and Prime Minister David Cameron for help.
She said: “When I found out David had lost his lawyers I was devastated. I just can’t believe this is happening.
“David has now been in a crowded Dubai jail for a year without criminal charge or trial.
“Because all his money has been frozen his lawyers have now stopped representing him – even though they believe in his case and his fight for justice.
“He is now trapped in a foreign legal system, where court proceedings are in Arabic, without any legal representation. This terrifies me.
“The British Government has not been able to do anything, despite what is clearly a huge breach of his human rights.”
Mr Haigh has lodged a counter claim against GFH, which bought Leeds United from Ken Bates in December 2012, claiming he was lured to Dubai under false pretences and for unpaid salary and bonuses he says are owed to him.
It emerged earlier this year that Mr Haigh, who claims he is the victim of human trafficking, was applying for a private criminal prosecution against two executives from the club’s former owners.
He has lodged an application for an arrest warrant to be issued for Hisham Al Rayes of Bahrain, Chief Executive Officer of GFH, and Jinesh Patel, chief executive of subsidiary GFH Capital.
Last week the Dubai courts refused to release funds from his frozen bank account to pay his legal team.
As a result Stephenson Harwood, the firm representing him in Dubai, will no longer act on his behalf, leaving him without representation in the Middle East.
The firm, which was owed £1m in fees, will continue to work on a legal bid to remove a freezing order against him in the UK.
A spokesman for Mr Haigh said: “David’s fight for justice continues with ongoing court actions in the UK against GFH directors and in respect of seeking access to his funds.
“While his assets remain frozen he has no means to pay lawyers and so is grateful for the support of those who are enabling him to pursue his case.”
Mr Haigh told friends: “I have done nothing wrong, yet I have now been in jail for a year after I was tricked by GFH into flying to Dubai. I am now without legal representation in Dubai and fear I may be trapped here for years. All I want is the freedom to prove my innocence and get home to my family.
“While I do not blame the Dubai authorities, I believe my basic human rights are being abused through the abuse of their legal system. It is a nightmare.”