British property developer Safi Qurashi suffers setback as Dubai court refuses to quash cheque bouncing conviction


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The Independent Online

A British property developer suffered a bitter setback today after a court in Dubai refused to quash a final conviction for bouncing a cheque.

Safi Qurashi, 43, who famously paid £43 million to buy the Great Britain shaped island on Dubai’s ill-fated development The World, was jubilant last week when Dubai’s most senior court quashed two out of three of his convictions.

After almost three years in jail, he returned home to his family, who insisted they were “extremely confident” that a final hearing would overturn the last of his three convictions for fraud, insisting it related to a cheque that was cashed by the recipient despite the fact the project had been cancelled.

But today the Dubai Cassation Court rejected his special petition to have the third conviction quashed.

The London-born developer, who moved to Dubai in 2004, was sentenced to seven years in 2010 after a trial in which he was denied the right to call key defence witnesses.

He protested his innocence during a seven week hunger strike, which only ended when the Attorney General made the rare decision to refer his case for review and his teenage daughter Sara threatened to follow suit with a similar food ban.

He was freed last week after the United Arab Emirates’ Cassation Court quashed the convictions in relation to two of the cheques, having heard that Mr Qurashi had written them as security and they should have been returned rather than cashed.

However in an unexpected turn of events he was rearrested upon release after a further two charges of bouncing cheques worth more than £1 million were filed against him. He was released on bail.

Mr Qurashi was released on bail and is expected to appear before the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours shortly.

Dozens of foreign investors remain in prison in Dubai, having fallen foul of the UAE’s harsh criminal laws, which impose lengthy prison sentences for crimes such as bounced cheques, particularly since the downturn in the economy saw a dramatic increase in debtors.