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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

David Haigh trial opens in Dubai in dispute with Bahrain’s GFH Capital

Subsidiary of Gulf Finance House claiming $5m from its British former deputy chief executive

David Haigh, centre, watches a Leeds match.  A trial involving the former GFH Capital executive is underway in Dubai. Rob Munro/Getty 
David Haigh, centre, watches a Leeds match.  A trial involving the former GFH Capital executive is underway in Dubai. Rob Munro/Getty 

David Haigh, a former deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, the investment banking arm of GFH Financial Group, has been ordered to attend a four-day trial in Dubai, the latest in a long-running dispute in which he was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from his former employer in 2015.

“The time estimate for the trial of the claim is revised,” said an order document from DIFC Courts judge Sir Jeremy Cooke, dated June 13 and seen by The National. “The trial shall take place over four days, commencing 1 July 2018.”

The order followed an earlier request by Haigh to adjourn the case. A DIFC Courts spokesman confirmed the trial commenced on Sunday at 10am.

The case centres around a court battle between Haigh and his former employer GFH Capital, based in Bahrain. GFH is seeking $5 million in damages plus legal and other costs, which it believes it is owed after Haigh, who is British, was convicted of breach of trust by Dubai Criminal Court in a separate case in 2015 and deported to the UK.

Haigh, a former boss of English Championship team Leeds United, was arrested and jailed for two years in Dubai in May 2014 for misappropriating about $6m of GFH Capital’s funds. GFH had earlier bought a 24 per cent stake in the club.

The court said Haigh faked about 100 invoices and arranged payment into at least four different bank accounts in Dubai, London and Manchester. Haigh has denied the claims.

The DIFC Courts trial relates to a parallel civil case in the Court of First Instance, first brought by GFH Capital in 2014 in an attempt to obtain damages from Haigh following his arrest earlier that year. Haigh claims he is not obliged to pay damages to GFH Capital.

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There have since been numerous appeals and counter-appeals in DIFC Courts, culminating in GFH Capital’s request for an “immediate judgment” on the matter to bring the proceedings to a close.

A judge ruled in November 2016 that Haigh was obliged to pay the damages but Haigh appealed against the decision. His request for a retrial of the civil case was later permitted, according to a judgment in February 2017.

The CFI case has subsequently been reopened this week, with the retrial allowed and the case referred back down to the CFI.

Haigh – a UK-qualified solicitor who is representing himself, according to court documents – is not expected to attend the proceedings. The National attempted to contact GFH Capital and Haigh for comment yesterday, but was unable to reach either party.

Mr Justice Cook’s judgment in November 2016, seen by The National, detailed numerous attempts made by Haigh to challenge and defer the court proceedings, on the grounds that GFH was making the claim “to prevent the defendant from making well-founded allegations against the claimant”, the judgment said.

Haigh also argued that DIFC Courts has no jurisdiction over his claim.

The judge disagreed and said the claimant’s evidence “has been full and detailed. It does not seem to me that the defendant’s position is at all likely to be better at trial”, the document said.

The re-hearing of the case has been scheduled as a four-day trial, but could be completed by close of play on Tuesday.