Ex-Leeds United MD Haigh starts private prosecution over Dubai incarceration

David Haigh.
David Haigh.
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Ex-Leeds United managing director David Haigh is applying for a private criminal prosecution against two executives from the club’s former owners Gulf Finance House over an alleged “conspiracy to defraud” that has seen him held in a Dubai cell for nine months.

Mr Haigh, the former deputy chief executive of Dubai-based bank GFH, which bought Leeds from Ken Bates in December 2012, has been held in custody in Dubai since May 18 when he was arrested on suspicion of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering.

GFH has alleged that Mr Haigh defrauded it of £3 million by falsifying invoices and diverted money into accounts controlled by him.

Mr Haigh, who protests his innocence and says no criminal charges have yet been brought against him, has lodged a counter claim against GFHC, claiming he was lured to Dubai under false pretences and for unpaid salary and bonuses he says are owed to him.

And in a new twist to the saga, he has now 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.

He claims the pair “conspired to defraud” him by “agreeing dishonestly to deceive” him into travelling to Dubai with the promise of a job for GFH, when in fact they were planning to have him arrested and “procuring indefinite imprisonment, without charge, in very poor conditions”.

An application filed at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by Mr Haigh’s representatives said: “It is alleged, in short, that the suspects conspired dishonestly to lure Mr Haigh by deception to Dubai, knowing that he had very recently undergone a serious stomach operation, so that he could there be arrested and detained without trial, with minimal and ineffective court oversight, in poor conditions which are internationally notorious.

“They did this in order that he would find it difficult to defend himself against a dishonest and fabricated claim for damages which they were planning to bring against him in the Dubai International Finance Courts and did bring, within a few days of his detention.

“This is a tactic which the suspects, or their associates or lawyers, have used before. It was part of the plan to put unfair and unlawful pressure upon him to capitulate to the claim, or to seek to settle it on disadvantageous terms, supported by threats, and to present a fabricated claim.

“There is abundant evidence, supported by texts and other electronic records, that the suspects, with others, lied to him repeatedly and in detail so that he would travel to Dubai, where he was almost immediately arrested.”

In his statement, Mr Haigh said: “I have now been held approaching 300 days without questioning, charge or trial in a scandalous and unscrupulous abuse of my human rights by GFH.

“I have no quarrel or issue whatsoever with the Dubai authorities and the Dubai police who have treated me exceptionally well and have been very professional and understanding of the disgraceful behaviour of GFH.

“It is only in the last weeks that I have had slightly better access to my lawyers to allow them to put together my defence and a series of counter claims against GFH Capital.

“These show clearly that GFH Capital owes me large amounts of money – which may, of course, be the reason they conspired to have me locked up.

“Now the people responsible must answer to British justice and give any reasons they may have as to why they should not be arrested and face charges over what they have done to me.”

Mr Haigh says the intention of the two men was to lure him “into a jurisdiction where he could be incarcerated without trial and where his legal defence would be comprehensively disabled”.

Under UK law anyone has the right to bring a private prosecution, but cases have previously been rare due to the crippling cost of investigating and pursuing such cases.

Legal aid is not available, meaning they have largely been restricted to private industry or wealthy individuals.

If the arrest warrants are granted by British magistrates, then both Mr Al Rayes and Mr Patel will be liable to be arrested in any country and potentially subject to extradition to the UK.

The application is being made by human rights QC, Alun Jones and Stephenson Harwood on behalf of Mr Haigh.

GFH said in a statement: “GFH is aware that David Haigh has chosen to make a number of allegations in a criminal complaint against two of its officers, and is seeking the issue of a warrant for their arrest. No arrest warrants have been issued and no date for any hearing on this matter has yet been scheduled.

“On behalf of Mr Al Reyes and Mr Patel, GFH can say that these allegations are totally without foundation and will be contested vigorously.

“Indeed, GFH believes the proceedings to be no more than an attempt by Mr Haigh to divert attention from the serious allegations he faces in Dubai and that the issue of today’s press release is an attempt on his part to curry cheap publicity.

“Anyone can file a claim; however, this does not mean that such a claim has any merits.”