x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Briton's extradition to face Dh2m Dubai World charge likely today

Michael Bryan Smith, accused of embezzling more than Dh2m from a property company that is part of the Dubai World conglomerate, is expected to be extradited from Thailand after spending two years in jail there.

BANGKOK // A Briton accused of embezzling Dh2.2 million from a Dubai property company is expected to be sent to the UAE today after being held in a Thai prison for two years.

A Bangkok court in March cleared the way for the extradition of Michael Bryan Smith to face trial in Dubai.

"As far as I know the process is to be completed tomorrow," Thani Thongpakdi, the spokesman for the Thai foreign ministry, said yesterday.

The extradition arrangements were cloaked in secrecy and it was not clear when Mr Smith, 44, would travel. His Thai wife, Laddawan, said yesterday: "The prison instructed him to get ready to leave for the airport at 1pm today."

His lawyer, Prachaya Vjitpokin, confirmed the prison had been instructed to prepare the Briton for his departure.

Mrs Smith, who has visited him every weekday since his arrest, said she was worried about his imminent departure from the country.

Mrs Smith saw him as usual yesterday morning at the Bangkok Remand Prison at Klong Prem, but may face a long wait before they see each other again. "I'm extremely upset at the prospect of not seeing Michael for some time," she said.

"He's taking a leap in the dark but we want to sort his situation out as soon as possible. Only when this case is resolved can we get our lives back to normal."

Thai officials say they have been under strict orders to maintain confidentiality in the case, and his departure details have been kept secret seeking to avoid attention.

Mrs Smith said her husband "has not got justice in Thailand, so maybe Dubai will be better".

Dubai authorities applied for Mr Smith's extradition to face charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and the illegal possession of public funds.

He is alleged to have stolen Dh2.2m from the property developer Limitless, which is part of the Dubai World conglomerate owned by the emirate's Government.

Mr Smith is accused of transferring workers' salaries into his own account while working as a personnel manager.

He started work in Dubai in 2007 and left the company two years later, moving to Thailand. He was arrested there in May 2009.

Mr Smith insists he is innocent but last week confirmed a guilty plea was possible. Under Dubai law, the charges against him carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

"With the time already served in a Thai jail I expect that the rest of my sentence would not be more than a year," he said. "Thank goodness it's nearly over. It's a relief now we are in the home straight.

"It's a gamble, I know. A greater ordeal may lie ahead of us."

Mr Smith said the couple would not return to Thailand to live once the case was over.

"I am not bitter and I have no complaints about my treatment in jail," he said. "But I am angry that I was never allowed a fair hearing by the Thai judicial system. We weren't allowed to call witnesses in our defence.

"I just want to end this absurd and unfortunate episode and rebuild my life with my wife."