Dughters of jailed Brit in Dubai launch embassy protest in London
Daughters of Safi Qurashi lobby UAE Embassy over their father’s seven-year jail term in Dubai
The daughters of jailed British property developer Safi Qurashi have launched a protest outside the UAE Embassy in London demanding his release, it was reported Sunday.
Qurashi, the London-born businessman who paid $60m for an island in the shape of Great Britain on Nakheel’s The World, was told last week he must serve his full seven-year jail term after being found guilty of bouncing millions of dirhams worth of cheques by a Dubai Court.
A judge in Dubai’s Court of First Instance last week upheld the sentence following an appeal, quashing the hopes of the Qurashi family that the Briton would be released.
Thirteen-year-old Sara and 10-year-old Maaria began their protest Saturday, accompanied by a dozen family members bearing placards, the Independent reported.
Sara, who established the website justiceformydad.com, told the paper: “My dad was worried about us coming over [to Britain], but he has supported me a lot. He told us that soon this will all be over.”
The children plan to hold a 30-day protest outside the UAE embassy in a bid to draw attention to their father’s case. The family has also requested a meeting with Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister, the paper reported.
The family hopes the British government will help to secure a meeting with Dubai’s ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, where they will seek a pardon for Qurashi.
Qurashi rose to fame as the owner of the 4.5-hectare island that is part of The World, a man-made archipelago of reclaimed sandbanks located off the coast of Dubai. He had initially planned to build a mix of hotels, residential and commercial buildings on Great Britain, but the scheme stalled in the wake of the global financial crisis.
According to the site ‘Justiceformydad.com’, Qurashi had acted as a “middle-man” in a number of deals that saw clients transfer money into his company in exchange for his purchasing land on their behalf.
In exchange for the money, Qurashi signed security cheques over to the client that should have been returned on completion of the land deal, the website claims. Instead, the cheques were cashed, leading to Qurashi’s arrest and imprisonment for cheque fraud.
The London-born developer was later found guilty of signing two cheques with insufficient funds and cancelling another.
The family has previously appealed to the British government to appeal to its counterparts in the UAE to re-examine the case. A 115-page case review written by Tarique Ghaffur, the former assistant commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, said in February it believed Qurashi may have been wrongly convicted.
In a statement to Arabian Business, UK-based Fair Trials International, which has lobbied on behalf of Qurashi, urged the Dubai Government to reconsider the case.
“We urge the Dubai authorities to… release Safi, who has already spent nearly two years in jail, so that he can return home to his wife and children.”
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in August that he number of Britons arrested in the UAE fell by nearly a fifth last year, aided by a decline in arrests for drug offences.
The Gulf state arrested 217 British tourists and expatriates between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, down from 265 arrests in the same period a year earlier.
The British Embassy said in 2009 that Brits were more likely to be arrested in the UAE than anywhere else in the world.