x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Briton in Thai court to fight extradition

Man accused of embezzling US2m from from a property company owned by Dubai World says he will not willingly return to the UAE to face charges.

BANGKOK // Michael Bryan Smith, the 43-year-old Briton accused of embezzlement in Dubai, promised to fight the charges as well as any attempt to send him to the UAE when he appeared in a Thai court for an extradition hearing yesterday. "Of course I am going to fight the case," he told The National during a break in the proceedings. This was Mr Smith's first appearance in court since he was arraigned in custody more than four months ago. He is being held in Klong Prem prison on the outskirts of Bangkok.

The Dubai authorities are seeking his extradition from Thailand to face charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and the illegal possession of public funds. He is alleged to have stolen US$2 million (Dh7.3m) from the property company Limitless, where he worked until early last year. Limitless is a business unit of Dubai World, owned by the Dubai Government. "This should be a straightforward extradition hearing," the public prosecutor in the case, Poonpol Ngearndee, said before the hearing opened.

"The case is purely procedural. He's not being tried for the crimes he is accused of there, just whether his arrest and extradition meet Thailand's treaty requirements. I don't know why he's trying to prolong it." Mr Smith was reluctant to talk about the charges but said he doubted that he would get a fair trial in the UAE. "More importantly, so far the UAE authorities have not produced any details or evidence of the crimes I am supposed to have committed," he later said at the back of the court as he waited for the outcome of the proceedings.

"All the Thai authorities have is a statement from a prosecutor in Dubai to the police here - that's not evidence." Mr Smith is accused of transferring workers' salaries into his own account while working as a personnel manager between March and May last year. He started work in Dubai in 2007, and left the company around June 2008. He has been based in Thailand ever since. "I have never tried to hide my whereabouts," he said.

Mr Smith, wearing the traditional orange pyjamas of jail inmates, hobbled into the courtroom shackled. His wife, who was waiting for him in court, has visited him virtually every day since he was remanded in custody on May 21, except weekends, when prison visits are not permitted. Mr Smith's lawyer was unable to attend the hearing, which was adjourned to November 17 to allow the defence time to prepare its case.

* The National