x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Prosecutors appeal aquittal of executive held under UAE house arrest for four years

A former Nakheel employee cleared of his involvement in the Dh44million fraud case has spoken of his devastation after public prosecutors decided to appeal his acquittal.

Marcus Lee, his wife Julie and dog Dudley. The couple had hoped to return to Australia after Mr Lee's acquittal but that has now been appealed by prosecutors. Picture courtesy Lee family.
Marcus Lee, his wife Julie and dog Dudley. The couple had hoped to return to Australia after Mr Lee's acquittal but that has now been appealed by prosecutors. Picture courtesy Lee family.

DUBAI // A former Nakheel employee cleared of involvement in a Dh44?million fraud case has spoken of his devastation after prosecutors decided to appeal against his acquittal at the 11th hour.

Marcus Lee has spent more than four years under house arrest after being accused of being part of the collapsed Dubai Waterfront project and spoke of his initial relief last month after judges cleared him of any wrongdoing.

But on Tuesday – the day before the 15-day appeal process was due to conclude – public prosecutors announced they were appealing against the verdict.

“Julie [my wife] and I are both devastated by the news of the prosecutor’s decision,” Mr Lee said.

“Although we remain confident that my acquittal will be upheld by the Court of Appeal, we have now been caught up in this process for almost four-and-a-half years. We are totally exhausted and have lost everything we ever worked for.”

Mr Lee, 44, was cleared by a panel of judges on May 20, alongside another man, Anthony Brearley, who had already fled the country. The  men convicted, Matthew Joyce and Angus Reed, were each sentenced to 10 years in jail and ordered to repay the Dh44?million.

Mr Lee said after the verdict that he and his wife, who have been unable to leave Dubai since 2009 because of bail conditions and legal proceedings, had hoped to return to their home in Sydney, Australia.

“Julie and I hoped we would soon be allowed to see our families again and move on with our lives,” he said. “But we will continue to fight these charges. I am innocent of the accusations against me..”

The four men, all Australian, were accused of theft and fraud involving a plot of land in the Dubai Waterfront project. Mr Lee, 44, and Joyce, both former Nakheel employees, were sued by the Australian Gold Coast property developer Sunland Group.

They were arrested in Dubai in January 2009 and charged with abuse of public funds, fraud, breach of trust and acquiring illegal profits and commissions.

They spent nine months in prison before being placed under house arrest in October 2009.

Mr Lee’s Australian lawyer, John Sneddon, said the appeal was very disappointing, “however, we remain optimistic and ... believe his acquittal will be upheld on appeal”.

jbell@thenational.ae