x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Former British football boss in Dubai jail without charges

David Haigh, former managing director of Leeds United, was arrested on May 18 over alleged financial irregularities while working for former club owners Gulf Finance House Capital (GFHC).

DUBAI // A former British football boss has been in a Dubai jail for more than three weeks while fighting a civil case.

David Haigh, former managing director of Leeds United, was arrested on May 18 over alleged financial irregularities while working for former club owners Gulf Finance House Capital (GFHC).

Mr Haigh’s representatives said on Monday his detention was an abuse of the UAE legal system.

The Dubai company filed a civil case in the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts over mismanagement of funds amounting to Dh18.3 million.

Documents submitted by GFHC, a subsidiary of Gulf Finance House in Bahrain, show Mr Haigh is accused of fabricating 55 invoices to secure payments to five different bank accounts.

The invoices were on behalf of four different contractors used by GFHC, although each has said the bank accounts into which the money was paid do not belong to them.

Mr Haigh denies any wrongdoing and has protested against his detention. A spokesman on Monday said no criminal charges had yet been brought.

“Although he is deeply frustrated at being held in custody for this length of time without charge David has no quarrel with the Dubai authorities, whose hand he believes has been forced by the tactics used against him,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman suggested Mr Haigh may be the victim of a smear campaign.

“From the documentation he has seen, David is clear that many of the signatures purporting to be his may be forgeries.

“He is also aware that during the period in question, others had access to his emails and that it would have been inconceivable for the expenditure of the sort of sums of money set out in the GFH claim to have been signed off without the express knowledge of other senior people at GFH.”

“GFH Capital is aware of a statement made by a spokesperson for David Haigh today,” GFH Capital said on Monday. “It is noted that Mr Haigh asserts that ‘no criminal charges have been brought against him’.

“GFH Capital understands that a file has been passed to the Public Prosecutor in Dubai and that a Judge recently ordered that Mr Haigh continue to be detained until 23 June.

“Despite Mr Haigh’s apparent protestations to the contrary, GFH Capital has no control over the criminal investigation being carried out by the Dubai authorities into his conduct, and is unable to comment further on the criminal proceedings at this time.

“GFH Capital has independently filed a claim against Mr Haigh with the DIFC Court, alleging breaches of his employment contract and breaches of his fiduciary duty towards GFH Capital, by securing the payment of invoices with a value of approximately US$5 million [Dh18.3m] which are known to have been false and which it is alleged were created by or at the instigation of Mr Haigh.

“To date Mr Haigh has filed no answer to that claim, much less any counterclaim.”

GFHC was, until April, majority owner of Leeds United, who play in the English Championship, before selling its stake to the Italian businessman Massimo Cellino.

Mr Haigh served as deputy chief executive of GFHC until March, and managing director of Leeds United until April.

It is claimed that he was lured back to Dubai last month with the prospect of another job offer at GFHC.

A statement from Mr Haigh’s legal team said GFHC had accused him of money laundering.

“This has had the effect of freezing David’s accounts through the back door so that he cannot even pay defence lawyers, despite the fact that no evidence of money laundering has been produced,” the spokesman said.

GFH Capital does categorically deny that it or its lawyers have behaved in any way inappropriately,” the GFHC spokesman said.

“It has absolute confidence in the legal systems of both Dubai and the United Kingdom which are investigating the claims, criminal and civil, against Mr Haigh.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae