Dubai court hands 10 year jail terms to Australian property developers

A Dubai court has sentenced Australian property developers Matthew Joyce and Angus Reed to 10 years in jail over bribery and corruption charges in relation to a 2007 Dubai waterfront land deal involving Queensland developer Sunland.

They have been ordered to repay the Dhs44 million fee they earned on the deal, and a fine of a similar amount.

Joyce has been held in Dubai since 2009 when Sunland alleged that it was duped into paying a $14 million “introductory fee” to Reed to secure the land on the Dubai waterfront, a development plot on Dubai Waterfront, a subsidiary of the state-owned developer Nakheel.

Melbourne-based Angus Reed, managing director of Prudentia Investments – an school friend of Matthew Joyce – faces the possibility of extradition to Dubai, reported The Australian Financial Review.

The Australian has reported Matthew Joyce has declared his innocence and plans to appeal.

A third business executive, Marcus Lee, a colleague of Matthew Joyce, who has also been detained in Dubai since 2009, was acquitted of all charges relating to the property deal. So too was Anthony Brearley found not guilty.

The cases against the three executives were brought by the government of Dubai based on its own audit report.

The AFR reported Mr Lee and his wife, Julie Lee, said they were “overwhelmed” on hearing news of the acquittal.

“It has been personally a very difficult period in our lives, particularly being away from our families in Australia who have also suffered personally and financially.

“We are looking forward to seeing our families again and restarting our lives. We thank all those who have supported us and believed in us,” Mr Lee and his wife said.

Lee’s pro-bono Australian lawyer John Sneddon told 2GB’s Money News host Ross Greenwood that the judgment was 78 pages long. He said the couple were “financially ruined” having sold their Australian properties while awaiting the exoneration.

Sunland acknowledged the judgment in a 5.30 ASX notification.

“The matter has received considerable media speculation and attention for several years.

“Sunland recognises the independence of the Emirate of Dubai and its legal system, and acknowledges the outcome of the proceedings.

“Sunland’s civil proceedings in Australia were initiated against Matthew Joyce, Angus Reed and an associated company, Prudentia, and not Marcus Lee (to whom Sunland provided an exculpatory letter for use in Dubai) or Anthony Brearley.

“Sunland had previously commenced proceedings in Dubai to recover Dhs 44 million paid to Prudentia which was the subject of an anti-suit injunction in Australia.

“Following today’s judgment in Dubai, Sunland will review closely its contents and impact on Sunland’s legal rights and its outstanding legal proceedings.

“The Australia civil case is subject to appeal, and Sunland is currently awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeal in Victoria.” the Sunland statement to the ASX said.

The Victorian Supreme Court found Sunland had “commenced and continued the … proceedings in wilful disregard of known facts and law” and with a willingness to implicate Mr Joyce unjustifiably.

Sunland has appealed the Victorian judgment.

In February Prime Minister Julia Gillard phoned Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to seek a review of the Dubai case.

This article first appeared on Property Observer.

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