A massive diplomatic effort to free André from a life behind bars resulted in his ultimate exoneration of the charges against him. But was André’s nightmare experience a consequence of Western governments ignoring serious crime in the UAE?
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who initiated the diplomatic efforts to bring André home, explains the underlying issues that contributed to his years-long ordeal. “When I spoke at the OffshoreAlert conference in Miami during the Gauthier case in 2019, an FBI agent asked an important question. ‘Why does the West ignore money laundering and corruption in the UAE?’ The US, Canada and the UK are fully aware of the extent of criminal operations in the UAE, of money laundering and of corruption. They’re aware of Iran sanction violations, of the UAE’s harbouring of wanted criminals and of extraterritorial abuses.
“The answer is less important than discussing the consequences. As it was explained to me by British and American diplomats, the ‘UAE is our most important trade and security ally in the Middle East’. They pay significant amounts to lobby politicians and suppress violations. But this is at the expense of citizens like André Gauthier, a victim of our support for the UAE’s criminality.
“In giving the green light to the UAE’s allowance of laundering, we are supporting a criminal underbelly that creates an ultimate security risk for the country. Laundering creates a risk where money can be used to fund terrorism and local militia in the region. It puts people’s lives at risk in the Gulf and increases the risk of attacks in the West. On the other end of the scale and like with the Gold AE scandal, individuals are defrauded and lose their life savings. People like André, who expose the frauds, are locked up to keep them silent. The whistle-blowers are scapegoated. They are disposable, and these are the real life consequences of the West’s allowance and acceptance of Dubai’s criminality.
“When we accept laundering, the bounds of what are acceptable are pushed every time. We have the UAE engaged in Iran violations, in human trafficking, in money laundering, mass-scale frauds, extortion of foreign nationals, repeated torture, attacks on our vessels in international waters, kidnapping of our citizens from outside of their jurisdiction and kidnappings within our own countries. We have technology crimes, hacking and the unlawful surveillance of our citizens. And the line keeps moving. Every time we ignore these unlawful acts, the boundary is pushed more. We saw what happened with Khashoggi.
“A foreign national in the UAE can be locked up without evidence, forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, be beaten and tortured or even killed as with Lee Bradley Brown. We have dealt with hundreds of cases of foreigners who have been locked up by corrupt authorities and Sheikhs who need a foreigner to blame their crimes on. It’s impossible to defend one’s self in the legal system. It takes a diplomatic effort, as with André, to save an innocent person. This happens time and time again and it is indeed a by-product of our alliance.
“Western nations need to reconsider their approach to diplomacy or this will continue to happen. Our own governments must be held to account for putting people’s lives at risk and those who accept lobbying money from the UAE to suppress serious criminal activity, must also be held to account. The consequences of their suppression are security risks, human rights violations, torture, unfair detentions, extraterritorial military actions against our own citizens, kidnappings, hacking and extortion. An alliance is not an agreement to allow such rogue criminality at the expense of our own citizens.
“We are working with Canadian, US and UK law enforcement agencies, prominent politicians and investigative journalists to bring light to the Gold AE fraud and other serious crime”.