The UAE does not like whistleblowers; and it seems Canada doesn’t either. Canadian national Andre Gauthier discovered that the hard way. When he identified and exposed a massive fraud being perpetrated by the management of Emirates’ investment firm Gold AE, potentially saving unwitting investors millions of dollars in continued losses, he never expected to eventually find himself accused of the crimes he had exposed.
The alleged culprits of the scam fled the UAE shortly after Andre uncovered the fraud, and he was left to clean up the mess and recover whatever he could of the stolen funds. Meanwhile, from the safety of Canada, Mohammed Abu Alhaj, Gold AE’s former director, and the suspected chief architect and beneficiary of the scheme, incited the company’s clients to file criminal complaints against the new management, including Andre.
Instead of being allowed to continue recovering investors’ losses, Andre became embroiled in a legal battle to prove his innocence; a battle he has fought for more than four years now.
But it gets worse. Not only is Andre being punished for someone else’s crimes, with little or no support from the Canadian government to secure his freedom; it appears that the main alleged perpetrator of the fraud received support from a former Canadian prime minister to ensure he would not be prosecuted, and was then able to re-emerge again in the gold business in Canada in a company co-founded by a former Canadian MP.
Andre’s son, Alexis Gauthier recruited the help of legal and human rights watchdog Detained in Dubai to help get Andre home. In the course of their investigation into the case, they discovered that Alhaj was given a personal letter of endorsement by former PM Jean Chrétien to present to UAE authorities vouching for his honesty. Shortly thereafter, Alhaj successfully fled the Emirates, and despite being charged with fraud in the UAE, he started a new gold investment firm with lawyer and former Member of the House of Commons Russ Hiebert.
“The Gold AE scandal is an intricate and far-reaching conspiracy,” says Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling. “It involves both Turkey and Iran, and high-ranking officials in various governments throughout the Gulf States. The FBI has an ongoing investigation into how the scam relates to money laundering and violations of international sanctions against Iran. Andre exposed the wrongdoing at Gold AE and tried to stop it. We have been in discussions with the Canadian government, but not only is almost nothing being done to secure Andre’s release, the alleged mastermind of the scandal was supported by former Prime Minister Chretien, apparently protected against extradition to the UAE, and actually allowed to resume operating in the gold industry in Canada in partnership with former MP Hiebert, ostensibly with no investigation into his involvement in a financial crime of drastic proportions. Needless to say, this raises serious questions about why the government has been so passive about Andre’s wrongful prosecution and detention.”
Alexis Gauthier is losing hope that his father will ever come home, “He gave his heart and soul to make Gold AE work. He sincerely believed in it as a great project, only to find out he was being cheated along with everyone else; and when he tried to save investors from being defrauded, they threw him in jail,” Alexis says in frustration. “I have spoken to everyone in the government from the Foreign Minister down to consular staff, and all they do is pay lip service to helping my Dad. It is an endless loop of hollow assurances, with no action being taken. Either they are not taking it seriously, or the UAE authorities are not taking them seriously. When I see high level politicians being involved with the man identified as the chief culprit in the scandal, I can’t help but feel like my own government is happy to let my father just be a scapegoat.”
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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