An Australian businessman's five-year legal nightmare in the Middle East appears over, with a Dubai court upholding his acquittal.
Marcus Lee, 44, was cleared on fraud-related charges in Dubai in May but the Dubai Public Prosecutor appealed his acquittal, dashing his and his wife Julie’s hopes of returning home soon after.
But on Sunday, after more than 50 court hearings over almost five years, the Dubai Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. After the verdict, Mr Lee and Mrs Lee said the outcome was all they could ever have hoped for.
“This is the correct result and we thank the Dubai Appeal Court judges for their verdict,” they said in a statement.
“We simply hope that we will now be allowed to return to our families in Australia and resume our lives after almost five years of constant anxiety, stress and hardship.
“Julie and I desperately want to be able to see our families again.”
The Lees feared that the lodging of the appeal meant they were likely to be trapped in the UAE for another year. Mr Lee said he hopes Australian officials will now lobby on his behalf to ensure no further appeals are lodged.
Mr Lee and fellow Australian businessman Matthew Joyce were arrested in January 2009 over fraud allegations brought by Gold Coast property developer Sunland, after a land deal collapsed during the global financial crisis.
They spent nine months in prison, followed by more than three-and-a-half years under effective house arrest.
The court in May this year sentenced Mr Joyce to ten years in prison and a $25 million fine. It also convicted Melbourne businessman Angus Reed in absentia.
They were found guilty of duping Sunland into giving them $12 million, but both maintain their innocence. But the court cleared Mr Lee of wrongdoing, and even Sunland itself believed Mr Lee did nothing wrong.
Mr Lee’s Brisbane-based lawyer, John Sneddon, said any further appeals would be devastating and urged Dubai authorities to allow the Lees to come home.
“They are sick, they are tired and they have lost everything they ever owned,” he said.