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Man who 'smuggled guns' into UAE sues delivery company

A man who said he was mistakenly arrested in Abu Dhabi for weapons smuggling is suing the shipping company who sent the guns to the UAE.

ABU DHABI //A man who alleges he was arrested and sent to jail for almost two weeks in the UAE on charges of smuggling firearms into the country is suing the shipping company that sent his box of guns and ammunition to Abu Dhabi for US$10 million (Dh3.67m).

Gary Smallwood, an American who moved to the capital in September 2007, claims that Allied Van Lines erroneously sent a box to the UAE that was intended for storage in California. When the firearms arrived in the UAE, Mr Smallwood says, he was arrested.

"He was later interrogated, imprisoned and convicted of gun smuggling," according to documents filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr Smallwood filed a lawsuit in the US alleging negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges.

Haig V Kalbian, Mr Smallwood's US lawyer, said the incident has affected Mr Smallwood's ability to receive promotions at work.

"He has a black mark on his record thanks to the defendants in the case that has hampered his ability to earn a living," Mr Kalbian said.

Mr Smallwood contracted an Abu Dhabi-based moving company to ship some of his belongings to the UAE and to store the rest in California. The UAE company hired three affiliates, collectively referred to in court documents as Allied International, in the US to "assist with the move and storage".

"In September 2007, an Allied International representative met with Smallwood at his home in San Diego, took note of which goods were destined for shipment to the UAE and which for storage in California, and then packed up Smallwood's belongings," court documents read.

"The goods were boxed separately but loaded on to one truck."

When the shipment of guns arrived in the UAE, an Allied International employee "asked Smallwood to come to the port in Abu Dhabi to 'straighten things out'".

"UAE police arrested Smallwood when he arrived at the port," the documents allege.

Court documents also say Mr Smallwood faced deportation proceedings after his arrest and he alleges he was arrested, imprisoned for 11 days and "tricked into pleading guilty to smuggling firearms".

The American, who works for the US Army, has since left the UAE, but Mr Kalbian says he voluntarily left the country before deportation proceedings were formalised.

The Ministry of Interior did not respond to requests for comment.

"Unfortunately, the arrest in Abu Dhabi, through no fault of his own, and the guilty plea he had to enter, as we've alleged, caused directly by the actions and inactions of the defendants, it's cost him economically and we're going to pursue all damages," Mr Kalbian says.

Last month, a US appeals court upheld a district court ruling that the case would not have to go to arbitration in Dubai, a move that Allied Van Lines argues was necessary because of a foreign arbitration clause in the shipping contract.

Mr Kalbian says he has requested a jury and the case is expected to move forward in federal court in California.

A lawyer for the shipping company said his clients "have a policy of not commenting on pending litigation".

Mr Smallwood was not available for comment.

 

jthomas@thenational.ae

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