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Ex-Leeds chief David Haigh runs up one year in jail without charge

The ex-chief executive of Leeds' former majority owner GFH-Capital was imprisoned on 18th May 2014, but 365 days later he is still awaiting charges.

It had already been a traumatic year for David Haigh as he prepared to fly out to Dubai a year ago today. His failed attempt to lead a consortium in a takeover of Leeds United, was swiftly followed by the loss of his managing director's position when Massimo Cellino became president and majority owner of the chaotic Sky Bet Championship club.

Haigh was flying out to Dubai on the premise of discussing a job offer with his former employers, despite the background rows that had erupted when GFH Capital sold 75% of their share in Leeds United to Cellino in January 2014. Haigh had severed all ties with his former employers, but nevertheless walked into their trap as he returned to Dubai against advice.

Immediately upon arriving at the GFH offices, Haigh was arrested on suspicion of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering, and despite being held captive for an entire year, has yet to be charged with any of those offences. Furthermore, Haigh himself has launched a counter-claim against GFH for being the victim of human trafficking - being lured to Dubai under false pretences - but as his assets have been frozen by Dubai authorities he is struggling to progress this or fight his own defence. 

The 40-year-old sister of David Haigh, Ali Thomas, has spoken to the Yorkshire Evening Post of the last time she saw her brother in London, the day prior to his flight to Dubai: “He told me he was packing to go to Dubai to discuss a new job with his former employers. As I was travelling back to Cornwall he was flying out to Dubai and that was the last time I saw him. It’s been a year of disappointments and disbelief. The effect on the family has been devastating. To have to watch someone you love hurting and not be able to do anything about it is horrible."

Haigh recently posted a picture of himself in jail, having lost several kilos in weight during his ordeal, and despite showing bravado in his fight to clear his name, via a third party posting on his personal Twitter account, the fact that he is now without legal representation suggests there is no imminent end to Haigh's incarceration.  

Despite Haigh's past dealings with GFH and his involvement in the financial mess that the investment bank created at Leeds United, many Leeds fans are sympathetic to Haigh's plight merely as a human being. Ms Thomas now intends to take her battle for Haigh's freedom to her local MP and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Ms Thomas added: “When I found out David had lost his lawyers I was devastated. I just can’t believe this is happening. David has now been in a crowded Dubai jail for a year without criminal charge or trial. Because all his money has been frozen his lawyers have now stopped representing him – even though they believe in his case and his fight for justice.

“He is now trapped in a foreign legal system," Ms Thomas continued "where court proceedings are in Arabic, without any legal representation. This terrifies me. The British Government has not been able to do anything, despite what is clearly a huge breach of his human rights.”

The legal firm representing Haigh - Stephenson Harwood - is owed £1 million for its services so far, and is therefore no longer fighting his case in the Middle East. The firm is, however, fighting to release Haigh's frozen funds in the UK.  

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