x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

After 4 years under Dubai house arrest, man told no case to answer

Marcus Lee, one of two former Nakheel employees being sued by Gold Coast-based property developer Sunland Group, has been told there are no charges against him.

DUBAI // The chairman of an Australian property development company that is suing two former Nakheel employees over a failed Dh44 million deal now has said that the accusations against one of the men are without foundation.

Marcus Lee, who has been under house arrest since 2009, is one of two former Nakheel employees being sued by the Gold Coast property developer, Sunland Group, over the collapsed Dubai Waterfront property deal.

He and fellow Australian, Matthew Joyce, were arrested in Dubai in January 2009 and charged with abuse of public funds, fraud, breach of trust and acquiring illegal profits and commissions.

However, the executive chairman of Sunland, Soheil Abedian, now admits that, at least in the case of Mr Lee, his company's allegations are untrue and it has no case against him.

The latest development comes as Mr Lee faced his 42nd court hearing at the Dubai Criminal Court on Thursday. The trial was again rescheduled for April 11, in anticipation of a report by financial experts to be submitted to the court.

Speaking on an Australian television programme last week, Mr Abedian said: "From Sunland's side, we did not have any claim against Mr Lee. Mr Lee has nothing to do with that case as far as we know."

The statement follows a letter issued by Sunland last June that also retracted claims against Mr Lee, and said the company and David Brown, chief operating officer for its Dubai arm, had no claim against him.

But criminal charges are still being pursued against Mr Lee because Mr Brown had not formally corrected his written statements and allegations he previously gave to Dubai's public prosecutors, said Mr Lee's lawyer, John Sneddon.

Mr Sneddon has now called on Sunland and Mr Brown to act to clear his client's name.

"The only right thing for David Brown and Sunland to do is to now take every step necessary to put the record straight and support efforts to secure Mr Lee's release," he said.

Mr Sneddon said Mr Lee and his wife, Julie, had been "financially crippled and mentally at breaking point" over the ordeal.

Last month Dubai authorities agreed to revisit the case after the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, phoned Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to raise the cases of Mr Joyce and Mr Lee.

The men are accused of conspiring with two other men, A J P and A R - who fled the country and are being prosecuted in their absence - to allegedly swindle Dh44.1m from Sunland Group.

The men were arrested in January 2009 and spent nine months in jail before being placed under house arrest in October 2009.

The men's wives had to surrender their own passports to secure their husbands' bail.

jbell@thenational.ae