After 5 Years, Australian Execs Cleared in Dubai

After 5 Years, Australian Execs Cleared in Dubai

Commercial News » Middle East and Africa Commercial News Edition | By WPJ Staff | November 11, 2013 11:44 AM ET

The long-running saga of two Australian property executives charged with fraud in Dubai appears to be over.

On Sunday a Dubai court of appeals acquitted Matt Joyce, who once served as managing director of Dubai Waterfront, an ambitious attempt to build a city-within-a-city in the emirate. The court also upheld the acquittal of Mr. Joyce's colleague, Marcus Lee.

Mr. Joyce was facing 10 years in jail and a $25 million fine, after he was convicted of fraud charges in May.

Although the case is convoluted, it centered on a $12 million consulting fee paid by Australia developer Sunland to acquire a parcel of land in the Waterfront project. Dubai prosecutors charged that the two executives duped Sunland into paying the fee, which was made to convince another company to abandon its plans for the land.

Mr. Joyce and Mr. Lee were arrested in January 2009 and spent nine months in jail. They have been under house arrest ever since.

But the evidence against the executives was always considered slim by people familiar with the case. Both executives were cleared in a civil trial in Australia.

"It is just an enormous relief that the truth has emerged through the Dubai justice system," Mr Joyce told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal the court of appeals decision.

Dubai Waterfront was designed as one of the largest waterfront master-planned developments in the world, covering 70 kilometers of coastline. The centerpiece was a modern version of Manhattan, designed by architect Rem Koolhaas.

But the project, which was majority owned by Nakheel, the Dubai developer, stalled in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

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