x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Alleged embezzler shouts 'kangaroo court' at extradition trial

The extradition trial of a Briton facing embezzlement charges in Dubai has ended in disarray in the Bangkok Criminal Court.

BANGKOK // The extradition trial of a Briton facing embezzlement charges in Dubai ended in disarray in the Bangkok Criminal Court yesterday. Michael Bryan Smith shouted at the judge and prosecutor and had to be restrained by his wife and police guard after the judge refused to allow him to call any further witnesses in his defence against the Thai government's attempt to hand him over to Dubai.

The judge ruled that the proposed witnesses were not going to add any evidence that was not already before the court. "You are sending me back to Dubai to die," he shouted at the judge. "You are a liar and I can prove it," he shouted at the prosecutor, who smiled. "This is a kangaroo court," he said, his voice still raised. "There's no justice in the Thai system." Mr Smith, a 43-year-old Briton, is alleged to have stolen US$600,000 (Dh2.2 million) from the property company Limitless, a unit of Dubai government-owned Dubai World, while he worked there in 2007 and 2008. Dubai authorities want him to face charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and illegal possession of public funds.

Mr Smith was detained in Bangkok's red-light district after UAE authorities tipped off Thai police that he would probably visit the Big Dogs bar in Nana Plaza. The court will reconvene tomorrow to hear the verdict. At first the former personnel manager refused to stand up, as is customary at the end of Thai court proceedings, but his wife managed to pacify him before he was charged with contempt of court.

"It is 90 per cent certain now that my client will be going back to Dubai," his lawyer Prachaya Vijitpokin told The National. "But we have to fight every inch of the way." Mr Smith can challenge the judge's refusal to allow the latest witnesses to give evidence. His legal counsel has already filed an appeal, and the Appeals Court is expected to rule shortly on whether it will hear the case. If they accept it, then the verdict in the extradition hearing will be deferred until the court rules on the admission of the new witnesses.

Mr Smith has repeatedly protested his innocence since being arrested by Thai police last May. He has been held in the high-security Klong Prem prison on the outskirts of the Thai capital for the past nine months. His main challenge to the extradition proceedings rests on there being no treaty between the UAE and Thailand, which means any extradition order has to be in accordance with international legal standards governing informal extradition agreements.

"That means the case against me in Dubai must be credible," Mr Smith said. "As yet, all the Dubai authorities have provided is a charge sheet from the local police on the basis of a statement from Dubai World that accuses me of embezzlement." In yesterday's hearing, Mr Smith planned to challenge the Thai government's procedures and insisted that there were significant inconsistencies in the evidence presented to the court. These legal technicalities, he said, would seriously undermine their case against him.

"It's a black day for the Thai legal system," he told The National as he left the court, shackled in irons. @Email:ljagan@thenational.ae