English High Court rules former Leeds United MD David Haigh rebranded as #FreeLatifa “human rights l
The Honourable Mr Justice Henshaw of the High Court of Justice ruled this week that David Haigh did indeed embezzle almost $3.9m from GFH, the owner of Leeds United, for which Mr Haigh was imprisoned in Dubai in 2014.
David Haigh was the unpopular MD of Leeds United who began clashing with Italian millionaire Massimo Cellini who famously called him “dangerous” ,“a blackmailer” and “the devil”. Haigh was questioned under caution by the police when he was found to have installed CCTV in the boardroom and bathroom in the offices. He justified this invasion of privacy by alleging the surveillance equipment was installed to ensure no drugs were being taken on site, though of course, the accepted approach is random drug-testing.
Following the Leeds clashes, Haigh went on to Dubai where he gained enough access to be able to generate false invoices to cause $3.9m to be transferred to his accounts in England. Mr Haigh through companies and connections, used the embezzled funds to purchase a farm in Cornwall and a hotel called “The Cove, Lamorna”, in Penzance, Cornwall. Haigh was finally detained in Dubai in 2014 but instead of returning the funds, he claimed he was being tortured in detention which led to his release. GFH was advised to pursue him through the civil courts.
After Haigh’s release, he lodged complaints to Scotland Yard about his supposed torture and to the United Nations, largely as a publicity stunt to distract GFH from pursuing him for the theft. Neither body pursued Haigh’s allegations, due to the lack of evidence. Haigh claimed he had needed surgery to recover from torture, but failed to provide any evidence to back up his claims. GFH staff recall how David was in a large cell with his own television set, computer and restaurant menus where he could choose his own vegan food. He was a VIP guest of the facility, quite the opposite of his sympathy inducing propaganda. The last thing David would want is for Dubai to release the CCTV of his stay. Robert Dougans, who represented GFH, confirms that Haigh’s sister Alison was in touch with David during his detention and said he was “comfortably treated and even had a butler while in jail”
Haigh adventurously opened a (funded) private prosecution alleging GFH “human trafficked” him by luring him to Dubai with the intention of imprisoning him. He lost but after numerous appeals, the High Court finally ruled that Haigh’s claims were entirely “without merit” and the defendants were found not guilty. Haigh was ordered to pay substantial costs to the other side. The private prosecution appeared to be launched as a way to intimidate the witnesses from pursuing him through the civil courts, it failed miserably. https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/fresh-legal-setback-former-leeds-united-md-david-haigh-604124
Under Haigh’s management, consumer reviews said the hotel was in shambles, double booked and their fees were not refunded. During proceedings, Haigh denied he had alternative income despite owning the hotel and employing staff while simultaneously claiming to the court that he was on disability benefits as admitted in his witness statement “I attach to this statement a redacted statement of benefit. Confirming I am in epic od=f disability-based Employment SA. £102, less council tax deductions. I received approximately £420 to assist with rent. Both organisations already having reived in detail my financial situation before being award such amounts. This is there for less than £850 a month. DLH 55”.
Haigh’s reputation was at an all time low. Having gone from a promising new face for Leeds fans, to hated by the club, its owners and the general public. He needed to rebrand himself and deflect attention from his fraud. If he cried “torture” enough, maybe Dubai would encourage GFH to drop the case against him and let him keep the money in return for his silence, or maybe, Dubai would settle with him just to keep him quiet. In other cases, torture victims had received amounts from Abu Dhabi as high as $20m. It was worth a shot.
As his reputation suffered, he sought to attach himself to human rights organisations and use that attachment in his witness statements as justification for requests for delays. Haigh would claim that the government of Dubai was “after him” because of his association with Detained in Dubai. Haigh would then use this to try to persuade the court that his fraud proceedings were more political than financial.
This worked for him in court actually. He was extended every courtesy and leniency that the British system would allow. Haigh’s endless requests for postponements were granted to ensure the defendant could not accuse them of bias or claim that he had an unfair hearing. Haigh had every opportunity to submit evidence to prove his innocence, but he was unable to do so as noted by Sir Jeremy Cook, “no-one has ever come forward with a coherent explanation for the fact that large sums of money found their way into the bank accounts of the Defendant and that false invoices were created with payment instructions which disguised the receipt of those sums by the Defendant.”
David Haigh had approached Detained in Dubai and agreed with Radha Stirling, the organisation’s founder, to a joint venture called “Stirling Haigh”. But before it developed into anything substantial, Stirling announced her resignation. When Princess Latifa, a daughter of the ruler of Dubai, had embarked on her quest for freedom in 2018, she and Hervé Jaubert called Radha Stirling to enlist her help. Detained in Dubai said they applied an all hands on deck policy for the emergency situation and allowed David to participate in the #FreeLatifa campaign which included barrister Toby Cadman, and later with Hervé Jaubert and Tiina Jauhiainen who had helped Sheikha Latifa escape.
Towards the end of that year, Stirling, Cadman & Jaubert resigned from #FreeLatifa. Haigh had tried to persuade Stirling to continue working with him but she declined. Jaubert also declined. In retaliation, Haigh issued a press release announcing that he had severed ties with Jaubert and warned the press not to talk with him. Jaubert was to be a target for a campaign of harassment “After Latifa’s abduction, I had to live with David for many months and witnessed his concerning behaviour. I echo that he is a danger to those who come into contact with him. He has no boundaries and will go after your family if you don’t do what he wants. He is out for himself only”.
David Haigh falsely claimed that he had been in touch with Princess Latifa when, in fact, she was in touch with Radha Stirling and she never spoke with him. Haigh embarked on a public relations campaign, deceiving the press that he was instructed by Latifa, that she had sent him her pre-escape video and that he represented her. Haigh relied on the Latifa campaign as his lifeline to reputation preservation and sought to use his involvement throughout his fraud proceedings. Stirling said “Princess Latifa contacted me during her escape from Dubai. David’s false claim that he was in touch with her is highly damaging to the credibility of the free latifa campaign, from which I resigned in 2018. It is surprising that this fraud would be perpetuated in witness testimony by his colleague Tiina in the Princess Haya proceedings. Princess Latifa’s plight should not be exploited by fraudsters like David Haigh”.
After David’s conviction, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority suspended his license to practice law.
Following Stirling’s resignation, Haigh registered a number of companies similar to “Detained in Dubai”. “Detained”, “Detained International”, “Detained (Middle East)” and “Detained Abroad”. Stirling commented “It’s sad really. David publicly claims to be the founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai. He did this in 2018 on his Instagram account, and then just this month on his new website ‘Haigh International Justice’. I’ve never seen anything like it. He falsely claimed to represent my clients, falsely claims to be an expert witness, falsely claims to be an Interpol and extradition specialist and to have ten years worth of experience.” Haigh knows people know he is lying but he has no moral compass and doesn’t seem to feel shame or remorse. “Most people would be ashamed of registering ‘coca-colo’ or ‘rollz royce’ but fraudsters don’t have that inhibition”.
Haigh claimed to represent many of Stirling’s clients, even clients she helped while he was still in prison. He took an article from @MailOnline about an American client David Oliver, copied it onto his website and changed “Radha Stirling” to “David Haigh”. “This is extremely deceptive to the public and offensive to the human rights victims whose stories he steals. David Oliver died shortly after his release from Dubai and his sister was extremely distraught to see his name being misused by a fraudster”. Mr Oliver’s sister Beverly Thornton posted on Haigh’s facebook “I am the sister of David Oliver. YOU did nothing to help my brother’s release from Dubai, I know this is wrong information. I am very upset that you would use my brother for your benefit. Shame on you!”
Haigh had admitted in court documents that he has suffered from drug abuse, addiction and PTSD. Jaubert recalls “when I was first released from Dubai, David coached me on how to fake symptoms to get a PTSD diagnosis. I did not want to fake having any mental disability so didn’t take his advice.” The court noted in para.123 “The judge noted Mr Haigh’s propensity “to put forward medical grounds or seeking adjournment without any adequate medical evidence to support the assertions which he makes as to his incapacity or inability to attend and participate in the proceedings”, and proceeded to analyse the latest evidence Mr Haigh had submitted. The judge concluded that it did not support the suggestion that Mr Haigh was subject to emergency hospitalisation, nor show any grave medical condition such as would justify adjournment; rather, the application was “again a late attempt to derail the proceedings MR JUSTICE HENSHAW Approved Judgment GFH Capital v Haigh and Others 46 …”
David Haigh is accustomed to losing in court. He was convicted for embezzlement in Dubai. He lost the DIFC proceedings, he lost his private prosecution repeatedly on appeal and has lost in this commercial case at every level. Because of the leniency of the British courts, Haigh has managed to keep his money, farm and hotel and earn a living throughout proceedings, but it is inevitable that this lifestyle comes to an end. In a last ditch effort, Haigh submitted witness statements from Simon O'Rourke, one of his staff members who vocally named Haigh a fraud on twitter in 2019. Simon was homeless in Leeds when Haigh recruited him to be a last minute witness in an attempt to frustrate enforcement proceedings. “In all the circumstances I do not find the evidence remotely credible. The late evidence Mr Haigh seeks to put forward does not arise from any new and unexpected evidence from GFH’s side, but rather has the appearance of an attempt by Mr Haigh to embellish his case in the light of the arguments made at the hearing” - Justice Henshaw GFH v Haigh 19-05-20
Robert Dougans of Preiskel & Co represented GFH throughout proceedings commented “Haigh has tried for years to complicate this case and make it about what it is not. It is simple. He defrauded his employer of millions of dollars. He had thrown a lot of mud but he has never explained why millions were paid into his bank account. Lies and the help of unethical lawyers have delayed justice, but justice has been done at last.”
“David Haigh has cynically sought to hijack human rights issues for his own fraudulent ends. In seeking to attach his name to genuine campaigns he has damaged the causes of suffering individuals in need of help”, added Stirling, “Suffice it to say, many, many people are relieved and feel vindicated by the court’s decision.”
In an open hearing on Friday the 22nd of May, the court discussed disbursement of Haigh's hotel, house and disclosure of his financial information and income, including income derived from the Free Latifa campaign. Haigh had tried to delay Friday's hearings but when that ploy failed, he sought to delay enforcement of the order, citing "coronavirus" amongst other desperate arguments.
* Evidence available on request
* Judgment attached in PDF
* Detained in Dubai website version: https://www.detainedindubai.org/gfh-v-haigh
* Follow Radha Stirling on Twitter
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