UK court denies appeal to Dubai fraudster David Haigh

Former Leeds United executive made bankrupt after losing $5m case must pay back money siphoned from Bahraini fund

YEOVIL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: David Haigh, CEO of Leeds United, looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Yeovil Town and Leeds United at Huish Park on February 08, 2014 in Yeovil, England. (Photo by Rob Munro/Getty Images)
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The convicted fraudster and former Leeds United executive David Haigh has been denied the right to appeal against a Gulf court order.

Mr Haigh, who led the Bahraini GFH Financial Group's (GFH) bid for an English football team, has declared bankruptcy after losing a long legal battle against repaying swindled funds.

At the High Court in London, Lady Justice Carr refused his application to appeal against the order to repay the cash.

"I do not consider that the appeal has a real prospect of success or that there is any compelling reason why an appeal should be heard," she said, adding that Mr Haigh "made no arguable error of law or fact".

The bankruptcy order was issued after Mr Haigh had sought and failed to have the claim dismissed.

Mr Haigh is a director of companies with property assets in the English county of Cornwall. The order gave his last known address as a farm near the town of Penzance.

A London court warned earlier this year that Mr Haigh faced jail if he failed to provide details of his finances after England’s High Court in May found that GFH could pursue Mr Haigh for $5 million (Dh18.4m) in damages and costs.

Mr Haigh was convicted in Dubai of breach of trust in 2015 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 his homeland where he has sought to avoid refunding the missing money to the Bahraini fund.

The former director of Leeds United failed to attend hearings during the proceedings, instead sending an email to the court claiming he had been unwell.

Mr Justice Henshaw told the court he had reached the conclusion that it was Mr Haigh’s “deliberate choice” not to attend.

Mr Haigh was deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, the investment banking arm of the Bahrain group, and led its purchase of Leeds United in 2012.

The Dubai International Financial Centre Courts found Mr Haigh to be a fraudster after about 100 forged invoices arranged payment into at least four different bank accounts in Dubai, London and Manchester.

In May, Mr Haigh applied for leave to take the matter to trial in the UK but his application was refused.

Mr Justice Henshaw found there was “no realistic prospect of persuading this court at trial that the relevant findings in the DIFC judgment were incorrect in any material respect”.

“I agree with GFH that the substance of this case has already been considered by the DIFC Courts and resolved in GFH’s favour," he said.

The ruling quoted at length from the DIFC Courts’ findings, written by Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke in 2018. “Sir Jeremy Cooke found that Mr Haigh is a ‘fraudster’ who “caused to be paid into his own bank account and that of his close friend, monies belonging to the Claimant in the sums of £2,039,793.70, Dh8,735,340 and US$50,000.

“GFH was awarded damages in those amounts, together with interest, and a declaration that those amounts when received by or on behalf of Haigh were held on constructive trust for GFH. Haigh was further ordered to pay GFH’s costs, insofar as they had not already been determined, on the indemnity basis.”

It noted that Mr Haigh, who has a long history of campaigning against Dubai, did not take issue with the finality of the DIFC Courts ruling and had been represented by leading law firms in its proceedings.

The ruling also noted DIFC Courts had rejected Mr Haigh’s claims that the money was salary, fees and commissions. The DIFC judgment said these claims had “hallmarks of a fictitious invention of a desperate accused seeking to find some way of challenging sums which are indisputably due from him as a result of his own fraud”.