By Neil Halligan
Dubai judge was critical of David Haigh's defence team, may move the court to impose “some discipline on the levels of expenditure in this case”
Lawyers representing David Haigh, the former Leeds United managing director held in jail in Dubai for nearly a year, have stopped working for him and have threatened to drop him as a client if an issue of $2.4m in unpaid fees is not resolved, according to Dubai court documents released this week.
Haigh, the former deputy CEO of investment firm GFH Capital, has been jailed in Dubai since May last year on charges of misappropriating $5 million of the company’s funds.
His assets have been frozen since June last year and he has therefore been unable to pay his legal team. With bills reaching AED9 million ($2.45 million), his lawyers are threatening to walk out, the documents claimed, the court documents claimed.
Haigh lodged an application with DIFC Courts to vary the freezing order and permit the draw-down of funds to pay part of the legal fees and expenses, amounting to $800,000, to his legal team, led by Stephenson Harwood.
However, DIFC judge, Justice David Steel, was critical of the level of expenses claimed in the case in his recent ruling. He said the application for funds had material that was of “very marginal relevance to the application and is another example of how costs have been expended in a liberal yet unhelpful manner”.
He added “it has not been practicable for the court to read the mass of expert reports exhibited by the defendant”.
Justice Steel said there had been no evidence in previous applications that Haigh’s lawyers would not continue to represent him if their outstanding fees were not paid in full or in part.
He said if funds were released it would be for “the preparation of a response to the immediate judgment application, the preparation of an amendment to the defence and counterclaim and the filing of the application to set aside the freezing order for non-disclosure.
“This clearly will not advance matters far before a further application for funds would inevitably be made. Maybe that is the purpose of the exercise, namely to apply incrementally for the entire outstanding fees and disbursements,” Justice Steel concluded.
In ruling on the application, the judge said he may consider making some allowance for funding for the current application before the court. He also said it was time for the court to impose “some discipline on the levels of expenditure in this case”.
“The question of further costs needs careful consideration given the manner in which this litigation has been conducted,” he observed.
Justice Steel requested Haigh's legal team should attend the court on May 10 next to consider “the terms of an appropriate order and directions for further conduct of the proceedings”.
In response to the claim he was about to be dropped by his legal team, a spokesman for David Haigh said: "It remains David's case that he was lured to Dubai on false pretences and placed in a position where he would be unable properly to defend himself against allegations made against him, or against the freezing of his assets.
"He has now been incarcerated in jail for a year without criminal charge against him and without access to his money. He does not in any way blame the Dubai authorities for this. Rather he believes that the Dubai system is being misused against him... Legal moves to secure access for David to funds also continue to try and ensure that he is able to be legally represented.”
Arabian Business contacted Haigh legal team at Stephenson Harwood for comment but has yet to receive a response.