A Quebec entrepreneur who claims he has been set up as the fall guy in a multimillion fraud scheme in Dubai, U.A.E., was questioned for hours by police interrogators and denied access to Canadian diplomats and his lawyers on Thursday, according to the man’s son.
Alexis Gauthier said he briefly spoke by phone with his father, André Gauthier, who was at a police station in the United Arab Emirates where he is being held after he was extradited from Oman on Wednesday.
His father has been cooped up with five officers “for hours,” said Gauthier in a statement. “He hasn’t been allowed to see Canadian officials or his lawyer.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of the U.K.- and U.S.-based legal and human rights organization Detained in Dubai, which is helping Gauthier, said her subsequent calls to the police station went unanswered.
André Gauthier, a 65-year-old expert in precious metals trading, claims his legal troubles in the U.A.E. began after he reportedly exposed a $30-million US misappropriation case at Gold AE, a gold trading brokerage company he was hired to grow in 2013.
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Gauthier says the people who misappropriated the funds, including the majority shareholder and top executives at Gold AE, promptly fled Dubai and have mounted a co-ordinated campaign to try to the shift the blame for the missing funds on him.
Canada can’t remain silent, says lawyer
“The U.A.E. is a documented human rights abuser,” Stirling said.
Without continuous monitoring of his condition, Gauthier may well be subjected to torture, coercion and be forced to sign a false confession, she added.
“Foreign governments simply cannot trust local authorities and cannot take the usual line of ‘following a case’ and ‘ensuring due process’ because frankly, if the U.A.E. had followed Western standards of due process, André would not be in this predicament,” Stirling said.
Prior to his attempt to get to safety in Canada via Oman three months ago, where he was promptly arrested at the request of U.A.E. authorities, Gauthier had already been detained for over a year and a half in Dubai, she said.
“This is certainly not a case where the Canadian government can be silent,” Stirling said.
High-level intervention helped in past cases
Stirling said in similar cases in the past other countries have engaged with the U.A.E. at the highest levels.
“The foreign minister for Malaysia flew to the U.A.E. to meet with rulers and successfully brought their citizen, Mr. Richard Lau, home,” Stirling said. “The U.K.’s foreign secretary similarly sought the freedom of British national Matthew Hedges, while the Australian government brought their citizens Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee home.”
Alexis Gauthier said he had a “cordial” conversation with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday evening to discuss his father’s case.
Stirling said they also spoke with Freeland’s parliamentary secretary Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, who assured them the government considers André Gauthier’s case a “priority.”
Stirling said that during the conference call Goldsmith-Jones told them that Canadian officials are in touch with their counterparts in the U.A.E., both from the foreign ministry and defence ministry, but that they are working under “difficult conditions.”
She said the Canadian side needs to get across three points:
- The U.A.E. authorities have got the wrong guy.
- Gauthier was exonerated by an expert report prepared for the court.
- And Gauther should not be prosecuted for the same crime every time another investor files a complaint.
“The expert report ordered by the Dubai Ruler’s Court has exonerated André, and he should not face re-investigations over the same charges in each individual complaint,” Stirling said.
Canada needs to send the U.A.E. a clear message that human rights violations against their citizens are a priority and will not be tolerated, she said.
Officials at the U.A.E. Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to Radio Canada International’s request for comment.