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Fri 20 Jun 2014 04:21 PM

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Jailed former Leeds Utd chief 'regrets signing blank cheques'

David Haigh denies allegations in $5m lawsuit but admits to making mistakes in role as GFH Capital deputy CEO in Dubai

Jailed former Leeds Utd chief 'regrets signing blank cheques'
David Haigh, former deputy chief executive of Dubai-based GFH Capital. (Getty Images)

David Haigh, the former managing director of Leeds United FC who has been in a Dubai jail for weeks on allegations of falsifying invoices worth $5 million, has admitted to signing blank cheques.

Speaking to the BBC's Middle East correspondent Mark Lobel from prison, Haigh said he had made mistakes during his time as deputy CEO of Dubai-based GFH Capital but vehemently denied the claims in the lawsuit filed by his former employer.

In a radio interview, Lobel said Haigh regrets signing the cheques and also allowing other staff access to his computer and emails.

Haigh claimed that heavy job cuts at GFH Capital forced his hand and while he "jumped from country to country" he allowed others to act on his behalf. He said he believes this is what is behind the discrepancies at the crux of the allegations.

Haigh also told Lobel that some documents he has seen have his signature replicated on them, adding that he had "bombshell" allegations about his former employer which may be why they have acted against him.

GFH Capital, 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 for the 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 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.

Haigh, who negotiated GFH Capital’s takeover of Leeds from former owner Ken Bates in 2012, as well as its on-sale to current owner Massimo Cellino this year, was arrested shortly after arriving in Dubai on May 18.

Earlier this month, a judge granted an interim freezing order on Haigh’s global assets as well as interim search order on his property following a hearing at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Court of First Instance.

In comments made to Lobel, Haigh revealed that his return to Dubai last month had been on the pretence of discussing a "lucrative new job" with GFH Capital. However, as soon as he arrived at their offices he was arrested.

Lobel added that Haigh said he was not frustrated by the UAE legal system which he has no complaints with but he feels he cannot launch a proper defence stuck in jail.

He said 40 inmates have to share a single pay phone and there are no computers or internet and access to lawyers are very limited.

Haigh, who is said to be in a lot of pain after undergoing surgery on his stomach shortly before arriving in Dubai, also said he is "dumbfounded" that a bail of £3.5 million has been offered to him but he no way of paying it.

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.

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Brian Deane 6 years ago

What an idiot for going back to Dubai. Greed got the better of you and now you are in a Dubai a Jail were you will spend many weeks if not months before the Dubai courts will deal with your case !!!! Enjoy your stay.

Mohammed Kilany 6 years ago

I'm sure of his innocence and I sympathize with him and his family

Shaun Ibrahim 6 years ago

This makes no sense. Why would GHF be lying? Look at the facts. David states he was lured back to Dubai under false pretences but then goes on to say he had a bombshell files to destroy them. Why go back? Now David states he regrets signing checks and leaving his computer unattended. The real issues is whom received the funds sent to these accounts and what happened to those funds once they were received under false invoicing. I think David is scrambling to come up with a good story. Bahrain and Dubai, despite the negative press have never lied nor set anyone up in their countries. Exactly the opposite. People come in and think the arab community is naive and they try and take thinking no one will notice. Its greed. A 36 year old buys a football team and thought he was King. Clearly over the last 12 months you see him add over 30 kilo in weight from all the stress.

Red Snappa 6 years ago

Signatories signing blank cheques to keep a business running, in their absence is a common problem and a vicious weapon. Raising bail whilst sitting uncharged in jail, is a ridiculous proposition.

The law needs re-examining and revising, authorities should be only allowed to hold a person for a finite period without charge, a few days unless terror associated, if sufficient evidence cannot be gathered in that time then they should be released and their passport held by police, until either charged and summoned to appear in court.

This whole unfolding saga and it's questionable fundamentals, continues to paint a dark and sinister picture of the country's legal system and simply cannot be good for investor or employee sentiment.

Henry 6 years ago

A person on his level who signs blank cheques and "allowing other staff access to his computer and emails" is either not telling the truth or he is not very clever.

Daud Al Zainey 6 years ago

Well he is an experienced UK lawyer who has held senior positions in business so you would say his attempt at exculpation appears counter intuitive. Still his confidence in the justice system will see him right.

khalid 6 years ago

I'm against white collar crimes. and people whom were given the duty to run a company must face the harshest penalties if they have betrayed that trust.
but its easy for companies to accuse someone and get them in trouble. (finding a scape goat when things don't go right)
and if you have been cleared/acquitted by the respected court. just imagine what you went through. (jail, your reputation, family break ups,health, other financial issues that might start to follow up with you while you are unable to communicate with them, etc...) you never come out as the same person.

SA1 6 years ago

Then why no charges pressed even after 1 month of in jail?

Purple 6 years ago

I honestly think the guy has been set up as the fall guy and that there's a lot more to this story. While I'm not sure if he's entirely innocent, I don't think he deserves to rot in Dubai, if anything he should be released and allowed the chance to clear his name.

A lot of other Leeds fans have the same doubts, while GFH weren't popular at the club, most think he doesn't deserve this treatment.

Melas Letap 6 years ago

Deserves what he gets,
Hopefully GFHC get their comeuppance soon as well.

The debt they have saddled LUFC with & the overall management/running of the club was absolutely terrible.

They (GFHC) left the club in a worse state than they bought it