KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 ― For the past eight months, Malaysian businessman Richard Lau has been stuck behind bars in Dubai after an Emirati partner accused him of stealing wages and commissions.
United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) civil rights group Detained in Dubai said Lau was arrested in April and his detention has been extended every fortnight despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing as the public prosecutor requests more time to investigate the allegation.
“These few months have been an absolute nightmare for us; we feel threatened and unsure about our son's safety and future,” Lau’s unnamed father said in a statement provided by the UK-based group.
“I don't understand how the UAE can just arrest my son without a warrant based on a mere complaint by a local and then detain him for months without a charge, while they take their time with investigations.”
Lau was among eight people accused by Emirati Walid Jumaa Abu Shabas of allegedly stealing funds from a subsidiary of Malaysian marine transport company Shin Yang in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the emirates that make up the UAE.
Abu Shabas pointed at the large amounts of money paid by the company to Lau and the other seven individuals. The group said the money was not secret payment but was in fact their additional wages and commissions in return for carrying out the instructions of Shin Yang executive director Kenny Ling.
“It appears that Abu Shabas was unaware of this agreement and has misconstrued Lau’s earned salary and commissions as embezzlement. Lau has done nothing wrong except get paid for his work,” said the statement.
Detained in Dubai said Abu Shabas is a full partner of the subsidiary but with smaller holding in affiliated companies, and has had his share of profits falling as the company increased its outsourcing to the affiliates.
The group also claimed in Ras Al Khaimah and the rest of the UAE, one can be arrested and detained simply over an accusation especially when made by a local.
According to the UAE government website, a public prosecutor can only question a suspect within 24 hours and then either order his arrest of release.
All the others except Lau have been released, Detained in Dubai said.
“We have seen this before in the UAE where prosecutors endlessly renew temporary detention on the pretext of investigation. The law allows indefinite detention for crimes relating to national security, but Richard’s case is a financial dispute in which there was no illegal activity; there is no justification for denying bail while authorities investigate the accusations.
“Richard should be released immediately, just as the co-accused parties were released. It is Richard’s right to be promptly informed of the charges against him once he is arrested; ‘prompt’ expired seven months ago,” Detained in Dubai’s chief executive Radha Stirling said in the statement.
Shin Yang is a conglomerate based in Miri, Sarawak with activities in timber, shipping, ship building, property development, civil engineering, and plantation.
Malay Mail is contacting Shin Yang and the Malaysian Foreign Ministry for their response.