A Quebec entrepreneur who claims he has been set up as the fall guy in a multimillion fraud scheme in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has been ordered released from custody, according to his lawyer.
In a news release published Monday, Radha Stirling said Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, along with Dubai’s attorney general, has ordered the release of André Gauthier following a year-long campaign to secure his freedom.
“We have been campaigning for André Gauthier since May 2019, liaising with political leaders in both Canada and the U.A.E. to advance negotiations for a fair settlement of the wrongful charges against him,” said Stirling, CEO of the U.K.- and U.S.-based legal and human rights organization Detained in Dubai.
“We are very pleased that the Canadian government has maintained high level discussions with their counterparts in the U.A.E., which we understand can progress slowly, and that this very significant step has finally been achieved.”
Stirling said the direct intervention by Sheikh Mohammed is “deeply appreciated and is an optimistic sign.”
Gauthier, a 66-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.
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 shift the blame for the missing funds on him.
“André’s case is both complicated, and yet quite straightforward: the scam at Gold AE that he exposed was a complex international fraud involving multiple players and a variety of serious offences, but his innocence was absolutely indisputable from the start,” Stirling said.
“We have argued from the beginning that the U.A.E. cannot afford to punish whistleblowers who expose major fraudulent activities against foreign investors, if the country wants foreign capital to continue to flow into the country.”
Stirling said, however, that while all of the wrongful criminal cases against Gauthier have been quashed, the civil cases resulting from the affair remain to be resolved before he is free to come back to Canada.
“We hope this will be done within a few days, but can not be certain,” Stirling told Radio Canada International.
Stirling said she has received assurances from the Canadian government that “they will continue to meet with U.A.E. authorities to settle these misdirected cases.”
“André should have been commended for exposing the fraud at Gold AE, and for working after its exposure to help recover the looted funds for investors,” Stirling said.
“Instead, he was made a scapegoat, and he has lost years of his life, damage to his reputation, and suffered immeasurable trauma and distress. Today’s decision brings him one major step closer to the full exoneration he deserves, the restoration of his good name, and finally, the freedom to return to his family.”