By Shane McGinley
Safi Qurashi’s family are holding a 30-day protest outside the UAE Embassy in London
The daughters of jailed British property developer Safi Qurashi have staged a break in their 30-day vigil outside the UAE Embassy in London to discuss their father’s case with the ambassador.
Thirteen-year-old Sara and 10-year-old Maaria have been lobbying outside the embassy for more than a week in a bid to secure their father’s release from a seven-year jail term for cheque fraud.
“The ambassador kindly invited us in and we explained the background to the case,” a family member told Arabian Business. “It is a positive breakthrough… It was all very emotional.”
Ambassador Abdul Rahman Ghanim Al Mutaiwee said “he would write to his government,” the family member said. “[He said] ‘I hope you don’t hear back from me as that will generally mean a negative response.’”
Qurashi, the London-born businessman who paid $60m for an island in the shape of Great Britain on Nakheel’s The World, was told this month he must serve his full seven-year jail term after being found guilty of bouncing millions of dirhams worth of cheques by a Dubai Court.
A judge in Dubai’s Court of First Instance upheld the sentence following an appeal, quashing the hopes of the Qurashi family that he would be released.
The family has lobbied the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to appeal to the Dubai government and request a review of Qurashi’s case. It is understood the FCO is assessing the case and, pending its decision, may request a meeting between its lawyer and the office of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
A petition on the website ‘justiceformydad.com’, established by Qurashi’s daughter Sara, has attracted hundreds of signatures. The girls said they would call a temporary halt to their London protest in the wake of their meeting with the ambassador.
“After the meeting… we have decided to stop for a couple of days. We will start our campaign again outside the UAE Embassy when [it] opens up next week. I have hope that my papa will be home soon inshallah,” Sara said on the website.
Qurashi rose to fame as the owner of the 4.5-hectare island that is part of The World, a man-made archipelago of reclaimed sandbanks located off the coast of Dubai. He had initially planned to build a mix of hotels, residential and commercial buildings on Great Britain, but the scheme stalled in the wake of the global financial crisis.
According to the site ‘Justiceformydad.com’, Qurashi had acted as a “middle-man” in a number of deals that saw clients transfer money into his company in exchange for his purchasing land on their behalf.
In exchange for the money, Qurashi signed security cheques over to the client that should have been returned on completion of the land deal, the website claims. Instead, the cheques were cashed, leading to Qurashi’s arrest and imprisonment for cheque fraud.
The London-born developer was later found guilty of signing two cheques with insufficient funds and cancelling another.
The family has previously appealed to the British government to request its counterparts in the UAE to re-examine the case. A 115-page case review written by Tarique Ghaffur, the former assistant commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, said in February it believed Qurashi may have been wrongly convicted.
In a statement to Arabian Business, UK-based Fair Trials International, which has lobbied on behalf of Qurashi, urged the Dubai Government to reconsider the case.
“We urge the Dubai authorities to… release Safi, who has already spent nearly two years in jail, so that he can return home to his wife and children.”
The FCO said in August that he number of Britons arrested in the UAE fell by nearly a fifth last year, aided by a decline in arrests for drug offences.
The Gulf state arrested 217 British tourists and expatriates between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, down from 265 arrests in the same period a year earlier.
The British Embassy said in 2009 that Brits were more likely to be arrested in the UAE than anywhere else in the world.
Who should be responsible when victims lose money due to a check bouncing?I should start my own campaign as well protesting outside the UAE Embassy for the local that wrote me the 300,000 Dhms. check that bounced. When a check bounces the person who signed the check must be held liable. I personally witnessed 1000's of arrest warrants at the Police Station headquarters in Dubai for various crimes. If you can't pay something then don't sign it.
Assuming that there are no further negative facts to add to the dossier, I sincerely hope that UAE Ambassador to the UK's letter has some influence on the case.
It would also be admirable if a concerted high profile campaign was launched by the Dubai government to force developers to return advanced payments made by 1000's of investors whose freehold properties will never materialise. A situation that continues to cast a huge shadow over the market and the reputation for justice.
It is sad for what the Qurashi and his family are going through but the UAE laws for cheque bouncing are to be adhered to. If you ever issue a cheque on behalf of company/someone than am afraid it is your responsiblity. No person would issue a cheque unless it is to their benefit too..
I too owned Real Estate Co, but only issued cheque when physical money received in my company account, if PDC than ask the investor to open bank account in UAE and issue cheques.
I have to agree with Andy. Dad knew the rules and wanted to play but got caught up in his own schemes of grandeur.
"Thirteen-year-old Sara and 10-year-old Maaria have been lobbying outside the embassy for more than a week in a bid to secure their fatherâ€™s release from a seven-year jail term for cheque fraud."
Where is the Mother in all of this? Sending her children forward to gain public sympathy for a husband who did something wrong?
The cheques were issued in good faith and should have been returned. Its a bit like a bank taking a security cheque against your mortgage in the UAE. If you pay your mortgage off , and the bank does not return your security cheque ( which in most cases they don't) and then due to an economic crisis decides to bank your security cheque in an attempt to take more money from you. You end up in jail. This case is about the rule of law being aplied in which one cannot be assued guilty and about protection for the issuers of cheques which exists within the UAE Civil Codes.