A former football boss has begun a campaign to abolish the UK’s extradition treaty with the UAE after being detained for 15 months without trial following a dispute with his former employer.
The former chairman of Leeds United has now submitted a formal complaint to the London Metropolitan Police against the company alleging they had engaged in “human trafficking and conspiracy to defraud” and is suing the Dubai authorities for torture and false imprisonment.
He told The Independent he is launching a campaign to end the UK’s extradition relationship with the UAE and has set up a social enterprise which aims to help those who find themselves trapped in the legal system over there.
He said he is working as an expert witness in extradition hearings in the UK where he describes the torture and lack of due process he suffered.
Although the UK has an extradition treaty with the UAE, under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) it cannot send someone to a country where they may face torture.
Mr Haigh said a UK court has not allowed any extradition to the UAE since 2011 for this reason.
He said: “We’ve got this extradition treaty which is ridiculous because each time there is court case it costs us, the British taxpayer, an awful lot of money.
“It’s not the UAE that pays for it, it’s us – our legal aid, our court systems. So we are spending millions every year on extraditions and we will never ever extradite them because of human rights concerns.
“We are going through the process, spending millions of pounds of our own money and never extraditing people which just seems to me to be an absolutely ridiculous system to have in place.”
He said it is possible for the UAE to change its ways because the country is conscious of what people think of it.
As an “international tourist destination”, Mr Haigh argues, places like Dubai want people from the West to come and they will change their ways if they come under international pressure.
It follows the case of Jamie Harron, a Scottish electrician who flew home from the emirate last month after his three month sentence for brushing a man’s hip was quashed.
Mr Haigh's company, Detained in Dubai, intervened in the case and provided support to both Mr Harron and his family.
The 40-year-old described his own time spent languishing in a UAE jail which left him suffering from Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
He said the trouble began when he returned to the UK after several years working for a company in Dubai. He was tasked with running Leeds United football club, which was then owned by GFH Capital, but it soon became clear the company's ownership was not working.
Eventually he got together a consortium of businesses from the local area to buy the club and the company allegedly agreed to sell it to them.
But the firm ultimately decided to sell the club to another buyer and the consortium decided to sue over breach of contract.
After this Mr Haigh said he decided to leave the company altogether as he did not want to be involved in the “mess” which had resulted but was asked to come to Dubai to discuss setting up a business consultancy firm with the company’s financial backing in 2014.
When he got there he said he was immediately arrested and taken to a Dubai police station where he was beaten and accused of stealing money from his employer.
Mr Haigh said: “They told me I had been accused of taking money from my employer and I needed to give it back.”
He said he was treated as a criminal from the start and the police did not question whether he had actually done what he had been accused of and while he was in the police cell he was subjected to the first of several instances of torture that he received at the hands of the Dubai police.
After what seemed like hours of savage beating and being held in a stress position, Mr Haigh said he was taken to “temporary custody” for 15 months without charge.
While he was in there he met a BBC journalist the authorities had “stupidly locked up” with him who managed to get the story out in the UK.
As a result of this negative publicity, Mr Haigh’s case was eventually brought to trial and he was sentenced to time served plus a few extra weeks.
He said he was offered a royal pardon from the Sheikh if he did not appeal his conviction but refused as it would mean he would still have a criminal record.
Mr Haigh was then released on bail to prepare his appeal to be heard by a higher court in another emirate, Abu Dhabi, but he said that “literally within hours of him getting on a plane” to leave Dubai he was arrested again on charges of defaming the company on Twitter despite having no internet access in prison.
He was detained for a further five months before the case went to court when he was subsequently acquitted and returned to the UK for good in March 2016 where he spent a further five months in hospital being treated for the injuries he sustained.
The Independent has contacted GFH Capital and the Dubai authorities for comment.
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