Two Australian businessmen who have been under house arrest for more than four years over an alleged $14m Dubai property deal appear to have been cleared during court appeal verdicts on Sunday.
Matthew Joyce was acquitted of corruption and had his 10-year jail term and $25m fine overturned, while his partner Marcus Lee’s acquittal was upheld despite a prosecution appeal, Australian media are reporting.
Their cases have been high profile both in Dubai and Australia, with two Australian prime ministers intervening to write to the Dubai Ruler.
The developer at the centre of the case, Sunland, based on the Gold Coast, also lost a parallel case in Australia and a subsequent appeal after a Victorian court made damning findings against the company, including that it had fabricated evidence and was using the men as scapegoats.
The initial Dubai verdict in July had come despite the Australian judgement.
Following the Dubai appeal verdicts, Joyce spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald from his Dubai home, where he has been under house arrest after an initial nine months in jail.
“I am totally overwhelmed by today’s acquittal – it has been a very emotional day for our family," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
“It is just an enormous relief that the truth has emerged through the Dubai justice system.
“There is now a period of 30 days for any appeal but I am hopeful that today’s verdict will be accepted and we will be free to go home. I understand that my passport will be returned shortly – all I’m focused on now is returning home and restarting our lives.”
Despite the prosecution losing twice in Lee’s case, he also must wait 30 days during which a last appeal can be launched.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and his wife Julie hoped to be back in Australia by Christmas.
“Our mothers have told us that would be the best Christmas present we could bring them,” Lee, whose father, stepfather and grandmother have died in the time he has been trapped in Dubai, said.
“I haven’t worked since I was 39. Now I’m 44. But a crisis like this makes you reassess what is important. Julie and I worked hard. We had been career-focused. But now we know what matters is that we have each other.”
It was alleged Joyce and another Australian, Angus Reed, misled Sunland by claiming Reed’s company, Prudentia, had established rights over a plot of land at the Dubai Waterfront, owned by Nakheel and known as D17.
Joyce was accused of receiving about $6m for duping Sunland into paying more than $12m for the plot.
Reed, who is in Australia, had been found guilty in absentia but also was acquitted on Sunday.
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