x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Briton to be extradited from Thailand to UAE in two weeks

A British man arrested in Thailand in connection with the embezzlement of $2m from a Dubai-based property company is expected to be extradited to the UAE within two weeks.

BANGKOK // A British man arrested in Thailand in connection with the embezzlement of US$2 million (Dh7.3m) from a Dubai-based property company is expected to be extradited to the UAE within two weeks. Michael Bryan Smith, 43, was arrested in a Bangkok stakeout last week after nearly a year since leaving the UAE. He is now likely to be returned to the UAE to face charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and the illegal possession of public funds.

The charges relate to $2m missing from a company he worked for in Dubai, according to Dubai Police. The amount was previously reported to be as much as $150m. Mr Smith is accused of transferring workers' salaries into his own account while working as a personnel manager in a property company in Bur Dubai between March and May of last year, according to the UAE arrest warrant. Police did not identify the company. Mr Smith denies the charges, according to Thai police.

He appeared in a criminal court last Thursday and was remanded into custody for 60 days pending an extradition hearing. He was refused bail because he was regarded as a potential flight risk, said the police chief in charge of his arrest, Lt Col Pirom Chantrapirom. A man in the Thai attorney general's office who identified himself only as Mr Poonpel, and who is in charge of the case, said he expected Mr Smith to be returned to the UAE within two weeks.

"The papers have been finalised and we are now waiting for the correct documentation from the Dubai authorities," he said. Mr Smith was arrested last Wednesday in a bar in Nana, a Bangkok red-light districts. UAE authorities tipped off Thai police that he was likely to visit the Big Dog bar, which was known to be one of his regular haunts. According to the police officer in charge of the arrest, Thai detectives had been staking out the location for several days before he turned up. They acted on information provided by UAE authorities, and identified him using a copy of his passport, the officer said. He did not resist arrest, police on the scene said.

Mr Smith had left the UAE after the alleged crime, and police had been looking for him for several months before investigators traced him to Bangkok and alerted the authorities there, a senior police official in Dubai told reporters on Monday. "After learning that he escaped to Bangkok, a request for his arrest and extradition was placed through the Ministry of Interior on May 4. He is wanted on charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and the illegal possession of public funds for the amount of $2 million," the official said.

Although there is no extradition treaty between the UAE and Thailand, it is not unusual for suspects to be extradited after a diplomatic request, sources in Thailand's judiciary said. Thai courts have authority to decide on extradition. Mr Smith has retained a lawyer, according to court officials, and is expected to fight the extradition order. Since he left Dubai, Mr Smith has travelled extensively, visiting Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand, Thai police say. He is married to a Thai woman and arrived in Thailand in April to join her.

Mr Smith travelled around South East Asia for several years before he took the job in Dubai, according to a friend who also said Mr Smith was looking for work in the hotel business. He had recently been to China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam for job interviews, the man said. @Email:ljagan@thenational.ae