David Haigh ‘beaten’ in Dubai jail

7 Apr

Media caption“I was hit in the face”: David Haigh speaks to Newsnight’s Mark Lobel

The former managing director of Leeds United David Haigh says he was mistreated and beaten while in prison for fraud in Dubai.


Speaking to BBC Newsnight in his first interview since his release last month, Mr Haigh said there had been five “serious episodes” of physical abuse.

He claims he was tasered, hit, and threatened during detention in Dubai, which lasted a total of 23 months.

The authorities in Dubai have yet to comment on his allegations.

Mr Haigh was detained for financial misappropriation and accusations of cybercrime. He was arrested in Dubai in May 2014 and accused of fraud by his former employer, GFH Capital – a Dubai-based private equity group.

It was alleged that he faked invoices for millions of pounds and personally signed off on their payment, illegally channelling GFH’s money to bank accounts he controlled. Mr Haigh has always strenuously denied the allegations, claiming it was a set up.

He told BBC Newsnight that the alleged mistreatment by police began three to four weeks after his arrest, and the most recent incident – where he was “hit over the head with the back of a broom” – was three weeks before his release.

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Image caption

David Haigh says he doesn’t rule out a return to Leeds United in the future

In another incident, Mr Haigh says he was “hit with the back of the hand around the face and then tasered”.

On one occasion he says he was taken into the car park at night. “They were trying to scare me, telling me that I needed to confess, that if I confessed everything would be fine, that I could leave, they would give me bail – but if I didn’t, I was looking at 10 years.”

Asked why he had issued a public statement during his time in prison stating that he was being treated well by the authorities, Mr Haigh said he was acting on legal advice.

“[It was] to protect myself and ensure I would then get access to my lawyers,” he said.

Mr Haigh says that during his detention, he witnessed very serious mistreatment of other inmates – including a young Pakistani man.

“Three or four policemen were torturing him, standing on his throat, tasering him, using a cattle prod against him. It was the most shocking thing of my life, and I will never forget it,” he said.

We have approached the authorities in Dubai for comment. They are yet to reply.

Mr Haigh says he kept the British embassy in Dubai informed of his treatment while in prison, but their response was “wholly inadequate”.

“There are a hundred or more British people that have had their human rights abused, that have not had fair trials, that have been detained arbitrarily… It’s shocking.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “Our embassy staff were in almost daily contact with Mr Haigh throughout his detention, and this included regular checks on his welfare. We also regularly raised his case with UAE authorities, letting them know we were following it closely.

“We take Mr Haigh’s allegations of mistreatment extremely seriously and are setting out our concerns to the UAE authorities. We only raise allegations of mistreatment when we have the individual’s consent to do so.”


Read more:

David Haigh acquitted in Dubai over tweet (21 March 2016)

Ex-Leeds United MD David Haigh was ‘suicidal’ in Dubai prison (14 March 2015)

Leeds Utd’s ex-managing director David Haigh arrested in Dubai (21 May 2014)

Leeds United: Managing director David Haigh resigns (11 April 2014)


Speaking to Newsnight, Mr Haigh continued to maintain his innocence on the fraud charges – saying he believed that payments into his account were salary and commission owed to him by his former company, GFH. However, he admitted he did have “concerns they were being paid in a rather bizarre fashion”.

Mr Haigh was released from prison at the end of March after being acquitted on separate charges of cyber slander relating to a tweet.

He claims the entire legal process was skewed against him during his time in Dubai. “The best word to describe it is a farce,” he says.

Mr Haigh said he believes his former company GFH – which still holds a 25% share in Leeds United – should leave the club.

“GFH need to leave. They are hampering the advancement of the club,” he said

He said he would consider re-joining Leeds United himself, if the circumstances were right.

“Would I like to be involved with Leeds at some point in the future – with the right owner who has got the money and the passion to back that club and get it to where it belongs – of course I would.”

“It’s a dream job. It’s an amazing place,” he said.

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