Ex-Leeds MD David Haigh told to pay £230K court costs

Former Leeds United managing director David Haigh has been ordered to pay out more than £200,000 in court costs after a failed private prosecution where he claimed he was the victim of “human trafficking”.

Monday, 19th October 2015, 5:34 pm
David Haigh during his time at Leeds United

Mr Haigh, who has been in custody in Dubai since last May since being arrested and jailed on suspicion of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering, launched a case against a senior lawyer and two executives from his former employer GFH Capital earlier this year.

His case, that the trio engaged in “human trafficking” to lure him to Dubai, was dismissed in June at West London Magistrates’ Court and he has now been ordered to pay costs.

He must pay former Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Peter Gray £108,000 and GFH Capital executives Hisham Al Rayes and Jinesh Patel a total of £121,500.

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A picture of David Haigh released during his time in custody

Mr Haigh, the former deputy CEO of the Dubai-based investment firm GFH, which bought Leeds United from Ken Bates in December 2012, was handed a two-year jail sentence after being convicted of “breach of trust” this summer.

He has been given a release date of November 16, and his team say he has been offered a free pardon and the offer of immediate release from custody which he has rejected in order to appeal the conviction.

A spokesman for Mr Haigh said he would “appeal vigorously” against the award of the costs and on his return to the UK “would continue to pursue further legal action against GFH following what he believes were their actions in luring him to Dubai under false pretences”.

In his costs ruling, District Judge Tan Ikram said the application for an arrest warrant to be issued against the trio was “wholly improper”.

He described Mr Haigh’s legal representatives, Stephenson Harwood Middle East LLP as solicitor, Alun Jones QC and junior counsel, as a “formidable team to act in such an application”.

The judge said: “It seems entirely reasonable to me, therefore, for the respondents to employ ‘equality of arms’ bearing in mind the application was for warrants of arrest and also bearing in mind reputational damage as the history of proceedings between the parties has been so widely reported in the press.

“I am not at all persuaded that the, may I say, equally formidable teams who were instructed by the respondents are a disproportionate response.”

He said: “The applicant had choices at the outset and he chose to seek the issue of summonses on a private prosecution whilst in custody in Dubai facing proceedings there.

“He did so knowing that he would have to conduct proceedings with the possibility that he would remain in custody there. He could have instead gone to law enforcement agencies but chose not to. I am of the clear view that it was wholly improper to launch these proceedings.”

Peters & Peters partner Michael O’Kane, who represented Gray, told The Lawyer website: “Recently there has been much talk of private prosecutions. This ruling highlights the importance of only bringing such cases when it is appropriate to do so.”

None of the awards have yet been paid by Mr Haigh, who was imprisoned in May 2014 over claims he falsified £3m of invoices in connection with the sale of Leeds Utd, which was then owned by GFH, in 2014.

His assets were frozen by GFH’s lawyers Gibson Dunn in June 2014 and have not yet been released. The freezing order meant Haigh was unable to pay his legal counsel to fight the Dubai prosecution.