x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

British executive held for industrial spying

A former executive of Qatar Airways is banned from leaving the country after being detained for almost a month.

Ian Heywood, a former executive of Qatar Airways, was arrested and reportedly held in solitary confinement at an unknown location.
Ian Heywood, a former executive of Qatar Airways, was arrested and reportedly held in solitary confinement at an unknown location.

A British national, who is a former executive of Qatar Airways, has been banned from leaving the country after being detained for almost a month for alleged industrial espionage. The fate of Ian Heywood, 47, is unclear after the former senior manager of global sales and distribution for Qatar Airways was arrested and reportedly held in solitary confinement at an unknown location.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed that Mr Heywood was detained on May 1, shortly after he had filed notice that he would be leaving the airline to take on the role of commercial director for BMI, the British carrier. British officials were able to speak to the executive only after 25 days of detention, and three days later, on May 28, were able to secure his release on bail. Since then, sources say, his passport has been confiscated, his mobile phone disconnected, and he has been prevented from leaving the country.

The UK's Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Mr Heywood was held in solitary confinement, during which time his family was not informed of his whereabouts. A travel ban was imposed, though Mr Heywood has not been formally charged, and remains in place until authorities decide how to handle the case, an FCO spokesman said. "This all started with a commercial dispute that probably has something to do with him leaving Qatar Airways," Philip Hammond, a British MP, told the Daily Mail newspaper. "The next thing, he was being accused of taking secret information from Qatar Airways with him." Mr Heywood has told friends he is innocent, according to the report.

Hannah Mattock, a public relations manager at Qatar Airways, refused to provide details about the circumstances of Mr Heywood's arrest. "The official position of Qatar Airways is not to comment on this matter as this individual no longer works for Qatar Airways," she said. "We will let you know as soon as this position changes." The airline would not say whether Mr Heywood's contract was terminated in conjunction with the arrest, or whether he served out his notice period while being detained.

Mr Heywood was first seized by police at Doha airport as he prepared to board a flight to Bahrain with colleagues, the British media reported. Since then, Mr Heywood's fate has been a subject of active discussion on Middle East aviation web forums. A 26-year veteran of British Airways, Mr Heywood joined the Doha carrier in May of last year. An FCO spokesman said the office has been providing consular assistance to Mr Heywood and has been in regular contact with his family.

"We have been told about the grounds [for the arrest], but cannot go into details," said the spokesman. Officials at BMI also said they had been in contact with Mr Heywood, and that they expected him to join the airline shortly. The company would not acknowledge that he had been detained. @Email:igale@thenational.ae