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Dubai court ruling that former Leeds FC director falsified documents upheld in UK

Published: Updated:

A judge has barred the former director of Leeds United Football Club from continuing to challenge a Bahraini private equity firm’s enforcement of a $5.4 million Dubai court judgment, despite the man’s assertion that his ill health made the order unjustifiable.

High Court Judge Clare Moulder agreed to grant Bahrain’s GFH Capital Ltd.’s application for an extended civil restraint order against David Haigh as it was clear he would continue to challenge the earlier judgment, according to Law360 UK.

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The private equity firm is suing Haigh to enforce a $5.4 million judgment obtained in Dubai against the former football executive, whom it accuses of falsifying company invoices and diverting money into accounts he controlled.

Haigh is known in Dubai and describes himself as a “human rights lawyer, international crisis and media manager, entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

He was convicted in Dubai in 2015 over breach of trust after allegations that millions had been diverted into his and an associate’s bank accounts using false invoices. He was jailed and subsequently returned to the UK.

He was declared bankrupt in August 2020.

GFH is suing Haigh in the high Court to enforce the Dubai judgement which was made in 2018.

A judge cleared the way last month for GFH to possess properties Haigh owns and serve eviction notices to tenants living in several apartments and a farmhouse complex in southern England.

Ashley Pratt, GFH’s counsel, told the court that Haigh, who did not turn up at the hearing on Wednesday, was seeking to re-litigate issues that had already been decided through relentless court challenges.

He has also made numerous applications for adjournments on medical grounds, Pratt said.

Judge Moulder agreed that Haigh “cannot rely on his ill health to justify his persistent conduct in seeking to challenge findings which he does not accept.”

She added that Haigh had been warned in the past about his conduct and that it could result in a court order. The judge said that Haigh had filed at least three claims that were completely without merit, including an application to imprison one of GFH’s solicitors.

Judge Moulder noted in her oral judgment that the order does not prevent Haigh from bringing “legitimate applications,” but will filter out those that are baseless.

The start of Wednesday’s hearing was delayed several times by Haigh’s failure to appear. He later emailed to say he was recovering from psychiatric treatment at home in Cornwall, southwest England, and had only received notice that the hearing was in person late last week.

After calling two recesses to try to contact Haigh, Judge Moulder considered an “informal” application for a two-week adjournment. Haigh said in a letter to the court that he was still in ill health, that his phones had been hacked and that he was trying to find legal representation.

But after scrutinizing Haigh’s account, Judge Moulder said that she questioned the authenticity of a letter purportedly from his doctor about his condition. There were typographical errors in the October note and unexplained gaps in the typeface that gave the appearance that words may have been transposed, the judge said.

Against the background of numerous delays and applications for adjournment on medical grounds, Judge Moulder said the hearing would continue in Haigh’s absence.

“Haigh has deliberately tried to frustrate the hearing today and deliberately and voluntarily absented himself,” Judge Moulder said in an earlier oral judgment.

The long-running dispute between the GFH and Haigh began in 2014.

Haigh was the chief executive of GFH Capital, the investment banking arm of the Bahraini group, and led its purchase of Leeds Football Club in 2012.

GFH, which bought Leeds United two years earlier, accused Haigh of falsifying company invoices and diverting funds into accounts he controlled. Leeds United play in the top tier of English soccer, the Premier League.

GFH was awarded damages in the Dubai courts in 2018, which it has been trying to enforce in England.

Haigh, who insists that he was set up, was convicted, and imprisoned in Dubai and was released two years later in April 2016.

He has argued that he was enticed to Dubai under false pretenses, after the sale of the majority stake in the football club.

In a counterclaim, Haigh denies any involvement in a fraudulent audit trail to divert funds and says the claims have been fabricated to prevent him from blowing the whistle on GFH’s practices in Dubai. He also claims he is owed cash under a commission agreement.

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