The Australian government has made a second direct appeal to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to relation to an Australian man in home detention for four-and-a-half years on property fraud charges.
The letter was written by Julia Gillard days before she was ousted as prime minister on Wednesday and called on Sheikh Mohammed to order the Dubai prosecutors to drop their appeal against Marcus Lee’s acquittal.
In May, the Ruler’s Court found Lee not guilty of being involved in an alleged property scam that duped Australian company Sunland into paying $12m for a block of land in the Dubai Waterfront project, which was being developed by master developer Nakheel.
Lee’s senior colleague Matt Joyce was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and fined $25m. He is appealing the decision.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gillard’s letter was recently hand-delivered by Australian minister Warren Snowdon and Ambassador to the UAE Pablo Kang.
Gillard also personally appealed to Sheikh Mohammed last year after an Australian court dismissed a parallel case brought by Sunland.
In his judgement Victorian Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft denounced Sunland’s ”fabrications” and claimed the company had an ”ulterior motive” for bringing the case – to support its fraud allegations in Dubai.
Despite the Australian ruling, Lee and Joyce were found guilty in Dubai in May.
The men spent nine months in jail in 2009 and have been under virtual house arrest since then. They and their wives are unable to leave Dubai because their passports have been confiscated.
“After being in the Dubai court system for so long, and following the extreme disappointment on learning of the decision by the prosecutor to appeal against my full acquittal, we are encouraged by our situation now being raised at such senior levels,’’ Lee and his wife Julie told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Lee’s Australian lawyer told the SMH: “They have sold everything they own and, after 4 1/2 years, they are under incredible financial and physical stress.”
“[But] we remain confident that the appeal court will also find that Marcus Lee committed no crime and was just doing his job’’.
Joyce’s legal team also has requested a discussion with the Prime Minister’s office but is yet to receive a response, according to the SMH.
Joyce is seeking to continue his bail so he can continue to live with his wife, Angela Higgins, and three children in Dubai while he awaits his appeal.