Former Leeds United managing director David Haigh has today told of the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of police in Dubai during the two years he spent in the Arab city’s notorious penal system.
The 38-year-old has spoken publicly for the first time about his time in custody since returning to the UK from Dubai, where he was convicted of taking more than £3m from his former employers Gulf Finance House (GFH).
Mr Haigh was arrested and thrown into a police detention centre in May 2014 after travelling to the United Arab Emirates to meet with officials from GFH, the former owners of Leeds United.
He spent 18 months in “revolting” conditions at the temporary holding site at Bur Dubai police station, where British tourist Lee Brown died in 2011 following an alleged beating by local police.
His time in custody was extended by several months after GFH claimed he had abused them on Twitter, though he was ultimately cleared of cyber-slander, a criminal offence in Dubai.
Though he says he could not reveal the mistreatment he suffered at the time for fear it would harm his legal case, Mr Haigh, who was in charge of the day-to-day running at Leeds United following GFH’s 2012 take-over of the club, now says he was abused “quite badly”.
At various points he said he was punched, tasered and hit with a broom handle, as well as being tortured by police in one incident a few weeks after he arrived.
He said: “They came and got me in the middle of the night, they took me outside to the car park, then moved me into a room, and then I was quite seriously physically abused, tasered, whacked in the face, made to stand in strange positions, and told repeatedly ‘where is the money’.
“I was told if I confessed I could go home. I said I wouldn’t confess, I didn’t do it, you can carry on torturing me.”
Mr Haigh has filed a complaint with the British Embassy in the hope that the matter will be taken up with Dubai authorities, and called on the UK Government to issue clearer warnings to people intending to travel to the UAE.
After travelling to Dubai to discuss what he thought was an employment opportunity with Bahrain-based GFH, he was initially quizzed by police over a bounced cheque, an offence in Dubai, only to be later accused of fraud and embezzlement.
While imprisoned in the overcrowded 32-bed police block, he said he was initially only allowed to see his lawyer for two minutes at a time and was not allowed access to any legal documents so he could defend himself.
He was convicted in 2015 of using false invoices and diverting GFH funds into accounts controlled by him.
He continues to deny the claim and plans to appeal against the conviction and the freezing of his worldwide assets.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I want the British Embassy to make a travel warning, to people, tourists and businessmen who go to Dubai, that you need to be aware of the law on social media, you can end up in jail. You need to be aware of the law on cheques, the law on all these things. Don’t paint the picture that it is 100 per cent rosy.
“Yes it is a nice place to visit, but if there is an issue, or if you fall foul of a vindictive person, and they are everywhere, then you have got to be careful, I don’t think most British people, going from Leeds, or wherever, if they go on a boys trip or a girls trip to Dubai, they don’t think of this.
“They see the towers, the nightclubs, they think it is all fine. But if you hold hands with your girlfriend you are breaking the law, if you kiss them you are breaking the law.”