Finance Finance News Australian returns from Dubai after legal ordeal

Australian returns from Dubai after legal ordeal

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Australian businessman Marcus Lee has arrived back on home soil after being detained in Dubai on fraud charges for more than four years.

Mr Lee served nine months in prison before being acquitted twice of fraud charges relating to a property deal.

After arriving at Sydney Airport this morning, Mr Lee thanked all those involved in securing his release and return home.

“I’d just really like to say thanks to DFAT and particularly Pablo Kang, who is the ambassador to the UAE,” he said.

“They’ve been phenomenal, especially in the last 48 hours. Also obviously to all the Government’s help, the Government representations that have happened over the time.”

“We’d like to thank all our friends and supporters … and family.”

Mr Lee also paid tribute to his lawyer John Sneddon.

“We really couldn’t have got here without his help,” he said.

“He has been a rock for us. We couldn’t have done it without him. I don’t know how we’ll ever repay him. I said I would be his coffee person for the next 20 years.”

On Friday, Mr Lee and his wife Julie tried to board a flight home but were turned away by authorities.

The Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates intervened and gave high-level assurances the Lees would be allowed to leave Dubai on a flight the next day.

Mr Sneddon says his client’s arrival home marks the end of a four-and-a-half-year ordeal, which began in 2009 when Mr Lee and his colleague Matthew Joyce were arrested and accused of fraud by Gold Coast development company Sunland.

The business deal involved the sale of waterfront land in the United Arab Emirates to Sunland by the Dubai-based firm Mr Joyce worked for.

Sunland accused the pair, as well as Australian developer Angus Reed and another man, of conspiring to rip the company off over the deal.

Mr Joyce was convicted of bribery and fraud-related charges and faced up to 10 years in jail, while Mr Lee was acquitted.

Prosecutors appealed against both decisions, but in November the Dubai Court of Appeal ruled the pair did nothing wrong and cleared them of all charges.

Mr Joyce returned to Australia in December.

‘Clearly just doing my job’

This morning. Mr Lee expressed his disbelief at the legal process in Dubai.

“I wasn’t just once acquitted in Dubai on appeal, I was acquitted three times from the outset,” he said.

“It was very clear very early on, I was clearly just doing my job and that was found in all judgments.

“Unfortunately, I’ve have been caught up in the middle of a grubby dispute between a lot of self-interested property developers.

“Going through on the other side now, we just want to try to get on with our lives and start to not feel so threatened. See our family again, learn what they look like.”

But Mr Lee says other Australians should not be put off conducting business in Dubai.

“It’s not a bad place, I don’t want to portray that one bit, but you would have to be aware of your surroundings,” he said.

Mr Lee’s wife, Julie, says it has been a very tough ordeal.

“From the very start it was just unbelievable, the fear that we felt,” she said.

“Because it was totally unknown, it was totally out of the blue. Through this, Marcus has been so courageous, so strong.

“Even the day before yesterday, when they kept us in a room for two hours and started to mention state security again, I felt so ill, I felt so sick. I looked at Marcus and he was calm.”