Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

Money at the heart of feud between Detained in Dubai activists

Lines blurred between corporations, foundations and online funding appeals

David Haigh, centre, watches a Leeds United match. Rob Munro/Getty 
David Haigh, centre, watches a Leeds United match. Rob Munro/Getty 

Disputes about money are thought to be at the heart of online feuds between associates of campaign groups agitating about purported detention issues in the UAE.

David Haigh, a British man who faces legal action over frozen funds after being convicted of fraud in Dubai, launched a Twitter tirade saying that “innocent victims” were falling foul of campaign groups masquerading as legal experts.

The businessman ran Detained in Dubai – which claims to have dealt with 10,000 clients in the decade since it was founded – and was convicted of fraud and embezzlement in the UAE in 2015.

In the now-deleted set of messages, Haigh said there was a danger of sensitive cases being exploited by those who had left a succession of clients in a “terrible situation”. Among those he took aim at was a “group pretending to be lawyers”.

He added a hope that the “innocent victims, the world and the press will soon see through them, as I have”.

A screenshot of tweets by David Haigh.
A screenshot of tweets by David Haigh.

The outburst came just weeks after Haigh and his long-term business partner Radha Stirling appeared to have cut business links, relinquishing directorships in companies set up as vehicles for their activities.

Ms Stirling resigned as a director of Stirling Haigh, the pair’s advisory business, on December 31. The Stirling Haigh website states that Haigh was appointed managing director this year as the firm “expanded its focus”.

The reshuffle came after the removal of Haigh’s biography from the Detained in Dubai website, also in December last year. The group now says that he is no longer involved in its activities.

“David Haigh, former MD of Leeds United, collaborated on select cases with Radha Stirling and Detained in Dubai from 2016 until December 2018,” its website states.

After the resignation, Haigh set up a new corporate body called Detained International. Records at Companies House in the UK show it was established on January 11 this year.

A Twitter account of the same name appears to replicate the profile of his former company.

Mr Haigh also links to GoFundMe campaigns through his personal social media accounts. One account raised £2,987 (Dh14,519) for a campaign run by Haigh.

Papers were filed last year to turn the pro-bono arm of Stirling Haigh into the David Haigh Foundation. But it continues to be registered under its original name of Du Justice.

A link on its website goes to the JustGiving platform, another fund-raising page.

We know that he has spent time in prison because we gather information on the regulated community

Britain's Solicitors Regulation Authority

Haigh’s warnings come despite him facing legal setbacks of his own.

A Dubai court last year ordered the UK-based businessman to pay $6 million (Dh22m) in damages and costs to GFH Financial investment group after his conviction for breach of trust in 2015.

GFH is currently going through the courts to recover funds frozen as a result of the legal battle with Haigh.

Haigh, a former executive at the English football side Leeds United, has not been licensed to practise law for five years.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority in the UK said last year that it remains vigilant in enforcing its rules on non-practising solicitors.

“He has not got a practising certificate at this time and has not had one since 2014, which means he cannot act as a solicitor carrying out any of the six reserved legal activities,” a SRA spokesman told The National.

“We know that he has spent time in prison because we gather information on the regulated community.

“When an application is made we assess all admissible evidence, but obviously we cannot speculate what his intentions might be in the future.”

Updated: March 19, 2019 09:40 PM

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