x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Policeman may get red card by Dubai court over Lionel Messi passport video

Emirati officer posted a video of himself holding the Barcelona star's passport on social media.

Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona footballer, was recently named as a global ambassador for Expo 2020. Alejandro Garcia / EPA
Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona footballer, was recently named as a global ambassador for Expo 2020. Alejandro Garcia / EPA

DUBAI // A policeman who posted a video of himself on social media holding Lionel Messi’s passport could be shown a red card by a court.

Dubai Court of Misdemeanours heard Emirati J M, 26, was about to hand a two-day sick note in when he heard that the Argentina and Barcelona superstar was arriving at Dubai airport’s private jet area, where he worked, on December 27 last year.

Prosecutors said he waited until Messi arrived and tried to get his photo taken with the footballer, but he was told that it was not allowed as Messi, who was recently named a global ambassador for Expo 2020, was exhausted from the flight.

“I then went to the passport control desk and noticed that Messi’s passport had been left there, so I picked it up and shot a video of myself while holding it,” said J M.

He posted the clip on Snapchat and said: “This is Messi’s, he is here in Dubai, what do I do? Shall I burn the passport or just put it back! Ok Ok you can go!”

The clip was later reported to police and J M was charged with breaching Messi’s privacy – which he confessed to in court. But he said it was only a joke.

The policeman told prosecutors he had permission from Messi’s bodyguard, who was standing next to the passport control desk and saw him as he spotted the player’s passport.

“He was standing there, so I spoke to him in English and asked him if I could take a picture of myself with the player’s passport and he said yes,” said J M.

He added that the passport control officer present at the desk at the time was not responsible for the incident. “I didn’t take his permission – he was there but didn’t see what happened,” said the defendant, who deleted the clip after uploading it to Snapchat.

“I have no idea how it got circulated. I was just kidding and had never done this thing with anyone else before. I was wrong and I promise I would never repeat such a behaviour,” said J M, who had been with Dubai Police since 2007.

Emirati policeman M A, 31, testified he was patrolling the private jet area when he saw J M.

“It was 4am when I saw him still present and my colleague asked him to go home, then my colleague and I left to resume our checks ahead of the plane landing,” said the officer.

M A said orders banning the use of mobile phones during working hours were clear to all, including the defendant.

“I don’t know why he did that, he knows it’s not allowed. We all would love to have a picture with Messi, but it’s not allowed,” he said.

In court, the defendant confessed to the charge and requested leniency. A verdict is expected later this month.

Messi was in Dubai to receive the Player of the Year award at the Globe Soccer Awards.

salamir@thenational.ae