David Haigh, who has been in a Dubai jail since May 18, is being sued for $5m by his former company GFH Capital
Jailed former managing director of Leeds United Football Club, David Haigh, is “under medication” and “not focused” with no access to emails, a computer or paperwork needed to mount his defence, his lawyer told a Dubai court on Tuesday.
In a hearing at the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, in which a freezing order on Haigh’s assets was extended, lawyer Bushra Ahmed also accused investment firm GFH Capital of “disabling” Haigh’s ability to deal with the company’s $5m lawsuit against him by filing a concurrent criminal complaint, which was keeping him in jail.
GFHC, a subsidiary of Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House, launched legal action against Haigh, 36, late last month, with a statement of claim alleging that while working as deputy CEO for the Gulf finance company he created a spate of false invoices for third party work that was then paid for into bank accounts operated by him.
Haigh, who has been in jail since his arrest at GFHC’s offices on May 18, has also been referred to the Public Prosecution for trial on charges of “embezzlement, swindling and breach of trust”, but to date no criminal charges have been brought against him and the matter is still listed as under “investigation” on the Dubai Public Prosecution website.
In court on Tuesday, Andrew Bodnar, for GFHC, argued that the freezing order should be expanded to include Sport Capital amid concerns that Haigh may move to divest shares in the company.
On June 9, a UK high court ruled in favour of Sport Capital in its £950,000 ($1,611,208) winding up petition against Leeds United over an unpaid debt in the third such petition to have been slapped on the embattled football club this year.
Ahmed told the Dubai court that “our instructions are that Haigh has no direct or indirect interest in Sport Capital” and “we simply don’t have any instructions to defend the application”.
“He has no access to his records, he’s under medication at present, the conditions in the prison are… he has no access to pens, he has no access to papers, he is not someone who is concentrating, he is not focused,” she said.
However, Bodnar pointed to an email written from Haigh’s GFHC email on November 20 last year confirming Sport Capital had been newly incorporated in Guernsey and in which he said “I am the sole beneficiary owner of this through my trust in Geneva”.
Bodnar said a company search showed Sport Capital was owned by a Chateau Management Ltd in Nevis, with another shareholder named as Chateau Fiducia SA and no personal directors.
Bodnar said it was “more than merely arguable that those fiduciaries operate for the benefit of someone else”. “It would be a remarkable co-incidence if Sport Capital is not his,” he said.
“We would prefer that he is prevented from dealing with the assets of Sport Capital itself.”
As part of his defence against GFHC’s claims, Haigh’s team has disputed that such a volume and frequency of invoices could have been issued without the knowledge of senior GFHC people and that “many of the signatures purporting to be his may be forgeries”.
Before granting the request, Deputy Chief Justice Sir John Chadwick said “at least he knows that if he’s found to have his paws all over Sport Capital then it’s a problem”.
Ahmed requested that financial provisions beyond living expenses be included in the order should Haigh need to put up a surety if he is granted bail.
She also argued against a search of the third-party bank accounts allegedly controlled by Haigh, which would “take control out of Mr Haigh’s hands” to verify the details of the accounts.
Justice Chadwick said if the bank accounts did not belong to Haigh then he should not object to the search, adding that it was in the best interests to establish who was in charge of them.
He said an application to fund bail, including the amount and funding sources, could be made when required and dealt with on paper.
Haigh, who resigned from his job at GFH Capital in March before leaving Leeds in April, is due to have his detention reviewed on June 23.