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 Andre 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 Andre 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 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.”
A representative from Global Affairs Canada was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
Radha Stirling, with the UK-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 analysed 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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2019.
Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown
Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.
Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.
New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.
“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.
The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.
Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.
Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.
“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.
The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.
Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.
(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)
Lebanese Christian group denies Hezbollah claim it planned Beirut bloodshed
The Head Of The Christian Lebanese Forces Party (LF) denied late on Friday his group had planned street violence in Beirut that killed seven people, and said a meeting held the day before was purely political.
Thursday’s violence, which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast, was the worst in over a decade and stirred memories of the country’s ruinous sectarian civil war from 1975-90.
Samir Geagea told Voice of Lebanon International radio that a meeting held on Wednesday by a political grouping the LF belongs to had discussed action options should Iran-backed Hezbollah succeed in efforts to remove the judge.
Geagea said the option agreed upon in that event was to call for a public strike, and nothing else.
The powerful Hezbollah group stepped up accusations against the LF on Friday, saying it killed the seven Shi’ites to try to drag the country into a civil war.
The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite neighbourhoods, has added to concerns over the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s worst ever economic meltdowns.
Asked whether the presence of LF members in the areas of Ain al-Remmaneh and Teyouneh, where the shooting erupted, meant the incident was planned, Geagea said they were always present in these areas.
The security coordinator in the party contacted the authorities when they heard a protest was planned and asked for a heavy military presence in the area “as our priority was for the demonstration to pass by simply as a demonstration and not affect civil peace,” Geagea said.
Geagea said his party was assured that would be the case.
“The army has arrested snipers so they need to tell us who they are and where they came from.”
Nineteen people have been detained so far in relation to the incident.
Geagea, whose party has close ties to Saudi Arabia, also criticised President Michel Aoun over a phone call between the two during the incident.
Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, is an ally of Hezbollah.
“I didn’t like this call at all,” Geagea said, saying Aoun implicitly made the same accusations of involvement that Hezbollah has by asking him to calm down the situation.
“This is totally unacceptable.”
(Reporting by Maha El DahanEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Mark Potter)
New Zealand vaccinates 2.5% of its people in a day in drive to live with COVID-19
New Zealand vaccinated at least 2.5% of its people on Saturday as the government tries to accelerate inoculations and live with COVID-19, preliminary health ministry data showed.
Through an array of strategies, gimmicks and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s encouragement through the day, 124,669 shots were administered by late in the day in a country of 4.9 million.
“We set a target for ourselves, Aotearoa, you’ve done it, but let’s keep going,” Ardern said, using a Maori name for New Zealand at a vaccination site, according to the Newshub news service. “Let’s go for 150 [thousand]. Let’s go big or go home.”
New Zealand had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until an outbreak of the Delta Variant in mid-August. The government now aims to have the country live with COVID-19 through higher inoculations.
Forty-one new cases were reported on Saturday, 40 of them in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It has been in lockdown since mid-August to stamp out the Delta outbreak. Officials plan to end the strict restrictions when full vaccination rates reach 90%.
As of Friday, 62% of New Zealand’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated and 83% had received one shot.
Vaccination spots were set up on Saturday throughout the country, including at fast-food restaurants and parks, with some spots offering sweets afterwards, local media reported.
“I cannot wait to come and play a concert, I want to be sweaty and dancing and maybe not even wearing masks. Hopefully we can get there,” said pop singer Lorde, according to local media.
“Protect your community, get yourself a little tart, perhaps a little cream bun,” she said. “But please, please get that jab.”
Final results of the mass vaccination drive are expected to be released on Sunday.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Rditing by William Mallard)
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