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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Dubai court upholds GFH claim against 'fraudster' David Haigh

Defendant ordered to pay $6m to Bahrain-based investment bank on Wednesday

David Haigh was ordered to pay his former employer $6m in damages and other costs on Wednesday. Getty
David Haigh was ordered to pay his former employer $6m in damages and other costs on Wednesday. Getty

A Dubai court ordered a former deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, the investment banking arm of Bahrain’s GFH Financial Group, to pay out $6 million in damages and other costs to GFH Financial on Wednesday, after he was convicted of fraud and embezzlement in 2015.

DIFC Courts judge Sir Jeremy Cooke referred to the defendant David Haigh as a “fraudster” in his judgment issued on Wednesday afternoon, seen by The National. He granted GFH Capital’s claim in full, plus legal costs and exchange rate fees as the monies to be paid are in different currencies.

“The court, bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegations made, is satisfied on the evidence that the defendant is a fraudster who caused to be paid into his own bank accounts and that of his close friend, monies belonging to the claimant in the sums of £2,039,793.70, Dh8,735,340 and US$50,000,” the judgment said.

“Moreover, his conduct throughout these proceedings has been entirely consistent with that finding, in seeking to delay matters, in failing to give disclosure and in seeking to manipulate or play fast and loose with the court’s procedures,” it added. Haigh did not respond to requests for comment.

“We are very pleased that the DIFC Courts has upheld our claim in its entirety and rejected the unfounded allegations that the defendant has made against our client and our firm,” Robert Dougans, dispute specialist at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, acting for GFH Capital, in an emailed statement to The National.

The claimant will now seek to enforce the judgment through the British court system to recover the sums owed to it by Haigh.

The ruling follows a four-day trial in DIFC Courts this week, which was the latest development in a long-running court battle between Haigh and GFH Capital.

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Haigh, a former boss of English Championship team Leeds United, was arrested and jailed for two years in Dubai in May 2014 for misappropriating around $6m of GFH Capital’s funds. GFH had earlier bought a 24 per cent stake in the club. In 2015 he was convicted of breach of trust by Dubai Criminal Court and deported to the UK.

The court said Haigh faked about 100 invoices and arranged payment into at least four different bank accounts in Dubai, London and Manchester. He has denied the claims. GFH issued parallel civil proceedings in the DIFC Courts following Haigh’s arrest, seeking $5m in damages plus legal and other costs it believed it was owed.

Haigh repeatedly claimed he was not obliged to pay damages to GFH Capital, and there have since been numerous appeals and counter-appeals in DIFC Courts, culminating in GFH Capital’s request for an “immediate judgment” to bring the proceedings to a close.

But despite the judge ruling in November 2016 that he defendant was obliged to pay the damages, Haigh appealed the decision and requested a retrial of the civil case, which was permitted in February 2017 and finally heard in Dubai this week.

Haigh – a UK-qualified solicitor who is representing himself, according to the court documents – did not attend the trial this week. An order issued by Justice Cooke on Monday dismissed reasons given by Haigh in the preceding days for not attending the trial, including that he was taken to hospital on June 30 and “would not then not be in a position to communicate with the court”.

The defendant has given “unsatisfactory” explanations for not appearing at court many times before in the years since the case has been ongoing, the judge said in the strongly worded document and the court is “unable to take Haigh’s say-so as representing the true situation”, he added.