Thailand to extradite fraud case Briton to Dubai

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A Thai court has cleared the way for the extradition of Michael Bryan Smith, a Briton accused of embezzling more than Dh2 million while he worked in Dubai.

He will be sent to the UAE within 90 days.

“It’s a relief … there is now light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr Smith, 44, told The National in an interview in the courtroom. “But I’m disillusioned and disappointed.”

After 22 months in prison in Thailand, he said he had been caught in an unjust system.

“We’ve not been given a hearing – we weren’t allowed to call witnesses in our defence,” he said. Mr Smith has been denied bail since his arrest in May 2009 and has been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison in Klong Prem, on the outskirts of Bangkok.

“Waiting for extradition is not a crime, but I have been held here on hearsay – an accusation from the authorities in Dubai,” he said.

Dubai authorities are seeking Mr Smith’s extradition to face charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and the illegal possession of public funds.

He is alleged to have stolen Dh2.2m from the Dubai-based property company Limitless. Limitless is a business unit of Dubai World, which is owned by the Dubai Government.

Although a Thai court ordered his extradition in February 2010, Mr Smith appealed that decision. In December, however, he dropped his opposition to the order, and yesterday the Bangkok Criminal Court agreed to allow him to drop his appeal.

It is likely to take at least a month for all the paperwork to be prepared, according to Mr Smith’s lawyer, Prachaya Vijitpokin, and he could be on his way to Dubai any time after that.

Mr Smith insists he is innocent of the charges. “I’m being victimised because I dared to accuse the company of racist and discriminatory employment practices,” he said.

Mr Smith is accused of transferring workers’ salaries into his own account while working as a personnel manager between March and May 2009.

He started work in Dubai in 2007, and left the company in June 2009, moving to Thailand.

“Limitless extended its full co-operation to the concerned authorities following Mr Smith’s arrest. Control of the matter rests with these authorities,” the company said in a press statement.

Mr Smith said it would be pointless to push on with his appeal, although he says he had still not seen the actual charges.

“Time is too short,” he said. “I might as well face the courts in Dubai.”

Mr Smith hopes Dubai authorities take time served into account if he is sentenced. Under Dubai law, the charges against Mr Smith are misdemeanours, and therefore subject to a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

“I know it’s a gamble,” Mr Smith said. “Anything can happen.”

His greatest fear is that there may be new charges added when he arrives in court in Dubai, though that would be against the extradition order. He said he might consider pleading guilty if it meant he could be freed in the next few months.

“The most important thing is to be free and start to rebuild my life, especially with my wife,” he said.

He married a Thai woman several years ago, and she has visited him in prison every day since he was arrested.


Thai court allows extradition of British national to UAE

A Thai court on Tuesday said a British national could be extradited to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to face charges of embezzling 150 million dollars from a Dubai company.

The Bangkok Criminal Court acknowledged that Michael Bryan Smith, 43, had dropped his appeal against its previous ruling, paving the way for his immediate extradition to the UAE.

Smith was arrested in Bangkok in May 2009 on grounds that he faced a UAE warrant for allegedly embezzling money from a property company.

Although Thailand and the UAE have not signed an extradition treaty, the Bangkok Criminal Court early last year ruled that Smith should be sent to face charges there.

Smith initially appealed the ruling but later dropped his appeal, which the Criminal Court acknowledged on Tuesday, according to Thai radio reports.

At the time of Smith’s extradition ruling, Thailand was seeking the extradition of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was then a frequent visitor to Dubai, one of the seven emirates.

Smith, who is married to a Thai woman, reportedly decided to return to UAE to fight charges against him in court there.

He faces charges of forgery, betrayal of trust and illegal possession of stolen funds.


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