Son of Quebec geologist in Dubai prison suspects foul play, urges Ottawa to pressure UAE
André Gauthier sentenced to 8 years for 73 counts of fraud, family says he's a whistleblower
The son of a Canadian geologist jailed in Dubai after allegedly uncovering fraud in a gold company says the only way his father will get out of prison is if the Canadian government steps up its pressure on the United Arab Emirates.
A panel of Dubai judges on Tuesday rejected André Gauthier's appeal on a technicality, according to Gauthier's son, Alexis. He said his father, who has been detained off and on in the Middle East since December 2015, will remain in a Dubai prison indefinitely.
The Gauthier family says André was a whistleblower who alerted authorities in the United Arab Emirates to irregular dealings in a gold-trading company, Gold AE. But instead of being thanked for his troubles, he was arrested, charged and convicted with committing 73 counts in the very fraud he uncovered.
In an interview with The Canadian Press from Quebec City, Alexis said the three judges on Tuesday unanimously found his father not guilty on 11 charges. But due to the fact his father's lawyer allegedly didn't appeal the remaining 62 charges within the proper time period, Gauthier will remain in jail.
Alexis said he doesn't understand how his father's lawyer could be that incompetent and the family suspects foul play.
"We are extremely disappointed," he said, after learning of the decision. "We can't say we are surprised because the irregularities have multiplied in this case since the beginning. We seem to have the proof now that someone is trying to keep him there."
Alexis said his father has spent almost $2 million in court fees since 2015 and the family doesn't want to give another penny to the "corrupt Dubai justice system." He is calling for an urgent meeting with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, with whom he spoke last week.
He said Champagne needs to put political pressure on Emirati authorities. "They need to talk because that's the only way this will stop."
John Babcock, a spokesperson with Global Affairs Canada, said the federal government is closely monitoring the case and aware of Tuesday's decision.
"Minister Champagne is in touch with the Gauthier family and has raised the case directly with his counterpart. We will continue to raise the case directly at all levels of the Emirati government," he said in an email.
Radha Stirling, with the U.K.-based legal specialist group Detained in Dubai, has been following Gauthier's case and working with the family. Stirling says the Quebecer from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region was a "whistleblower" who was set up by the people who committed fraud against the gold company's investors.
Three members of Gold AE were diverting cash out of the company illegally, she said. After Gauthier was hired to help find the fraud, the people behind the scam fled the UAE and then contacted investors in the company to blame it on the Canadian, she alleged.
Stirling said two Dubai court-appointed experts who analyzed the facts in the case exonerated Gauthier of any wrongdoing. She said all 73 counts of fraud were connected and it was an "injustice" for the judges to clear Gauthier on 11 while maintaining the other 62.
"If you aren't guilty of 11 cases then of course you won't be guilty of the others because they are one of the same," she said.
Stirling agreed that Canada must exert more pressure on the country. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Malaysia have managed to secure the release of their citizens jailed unfairly in Dubai under similar circumstances, Stirling said.
"It's either that Canada is not as forceful or influential as other countries, but I find that hard to believe," she said.
With files from CBC News