David Lawrence Haigh is a British Human Rights lawyer and international crisis and media manager, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
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David Lawrence Haigh
Manchester, United Kingdom
|Education||Southampton University LLB Hons Law|
|Occupation||Lawyer and crisis manager, entrepreneur, co-founder of Detained, Stirling Haigh and Sport Capital|
Haigh is the former managing director of Leeds United Football Club and Chairman of Leeds United Ladies Football Club. He is the CEO and founder of the Sport Capital Group, a financier or Leeds United Football Club. Haigh was convicted of fraud charges in Dubai and spent 22-months in prison, where he claims he was tortured and raped. He is a campaigner for human rights and justice in the UAE, specifically on unfair trials, torture, Interpol and extraditions.
Haigh is the founder and joint managing director of Haigh International Justice, a dispute resolution, crisis and media management strategic advisor. He co-founded Legal Advocacy NGO Detained International in 2018. Haigh is an active campaigner for anti-homophobia in sport, credited with helping pave the way for LGBT players and managers in football.
Haigh attended Cape Cornwall School, England. He then studied at University of Southampton, where he graduated with a degree in law and attended law school at the College of Law in London.
Haigh has practiced law in the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Dubai. He joined west Mayfair law firm Palmer Cowen (later Fairmays LLP) in 2001 and has worked at several international law firms including DLA Piper and US law firm Akin Gump.
Haigh led GFH Capital's negotiations with the then-owner of Leeds United, Ken Bates, for the acquisition of the club. The agreement was formally announced at a press conference at Elland Road in November 2012. Haigh joined the Leeds United board in February 2013. On 1 July 2013, Haigh was made Managing Director of the club following the departure of now Football League CEO Shaun Harvey. On 11 April 2014, Haigh resigned as Managing Director following the purchase of the club by Massimo Cellino.
In November 2013 Haigh and Andre Flowers, managing director of Enterprise Insurance, formed a consortium called Sport Capital to purchase the majority of the shares in the club from GFH Capital. Haigh is said to have fallen out with GFH Capital after they sold the club to Italian businessman Massimo Cellino and not Sport Capital. Sport Capital Launched a £33.5 million claim against GFH Capital. Following the failure of the acquisition Sport Capital remained a financier of Leeds United.
After the Cornish non-league side Penzance AFC reached out to Haigh on social media looking for help, he joined the board as a committee member with the team sitting bottom of the South West Peninsula League Division One West, the 11th tier of English football.
Haigh was the co-founder, along with Radha Stirling, and managing partner of Stirling Haigh, a London-based international dispute resolution, crisis management and strategic advisory firm which specializes in criminal and civil disputes in Dubai, the wider UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
He co-founded Detained International, a London-based legal advocacy NGO that provides pro bono legal advocacy to victims of injustice, inequality and other human rights violations in the UAE and the wider Middle East.
Haigh was Chairman of Conservatives Abroad UAE and Vice Chairman of Gulf Tories and as its Vice-Chairman.
LGBT equality activism
Haigh made Leeds United the first Stonewall Diversity champion for LGBT rights in Football. On the same day former Leeds United Player Robbie Rogers joined Haigh on the pitch to launch his anti-discrimination charity.
Rogers came out as gay after leaving Leeds United in 2011. LA Galaxy player Rogers publicly supported Haigh's 2017 ComeOut2Play campaign to support gay football players.
Arrest, torture, and litigation in Dubai
In May 2014 Haigh was arrested in Dubai. Haigh claims that he was lured to Dubai by GFH to discuss a new job. His arrest related to allegations of fraud and embezzlement from his time at GFH Capital. According to Dubai Police he is alleged to have embezzled AED23.7 million (about US$6.7 million) from his former employers. The irregularities were allegedly discovered during a routine internal audit.
Haigh was due to return to the UK following his earlier case when on the day of Haigh's release, Gulf Finance House filed a criminal complaint that Haigh had abused them on Twitter while in jail. Haigh was acquitted of this charge in March 2016, and returned to the UK a few days later on Good Friday where he gave a series of television and press interviews setting out the treatment, torture abuse and unfair trials he suffered.
In July 2018, Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke upheld a judgment in the Dubai International Finance Centre Courts that Haigh had forged invoices and fraudulently directed funds. Haigh was ordered to pay nearly £3.8 million plus costs, and his counterclaims were dismissed. GFH said it would start enforcement proceedings against Haigh in Dubai and London.
While in Dubai Haigh hired English barrister Alun Jones QC and Thom Dyke and Keystone law Alison Bradley and Mark Spragg to file a private prosecution against GFH and their former lawyer Peter Gray of Gibson Dunn for human trafficking and fraud. Haigh withdrew the application when he lost access to lawyers. After his release Haigh took the case to judicial review at the High Court in England, and has stated that he is committed to following through with the private prosecution.
Haigh's hired WikiLeaks lawyer Melinda Taylor and Alun Jones QC to take the UAE to the United Nations for breaches of his human rights including, torture, unfair trial, arbitrary detention and discrimination on grounds of sexuality.
Following release from jail in the UAE, Haigh has had a battle with PTSD. Haigh was reported to have felt "suicidal" whilst detained in 2015 following being tortured and raped. He has talked widely about these feelings with prisoner charity Prisoners Abroad with whom he is now an ambassador.
Haigh spent two months in the Priory Hospital in 2015.
In April 2013 Haigh completed a 250 kilometres (160 mi) arctic charity husky trail to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which supports his niece Sienna, who lives with the genetic disorder Homocystinuria. Haigh was also an ambassador for Make-A-Wish Foundation and established a foundation to help victims of suicide in Brazil following the suicide of his former partner in Brazil.
During Haigh's leadership Leeds United became the very first Stonewall Diversity Champion in English football, championing gay equality within the club and Football. At the same time former Leeds United and LA Galaxy player Robbie Rogers launched his Beyond It anti-discrimination charity at Leeds United.
In November 2017, in an interview with Daily Mirror newspaper, he revealed that at least 20 footballers had confided in him about being gay. Haigh was open about being gay while in his role at Leeds United, and said to The Mirror that many gay players confided in him at the time as a result. In November 2017, Pink News credited Haigh along with Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger with paving the way for LGBT players and managers in football.
Haigh featured in the February 2020 Panorama documentary. He is identified by Princes Latifa Al Maktoum as her representative in her fight for freedom. Haigh was interviewed on 60 minutes Australia and confirms he has been fighting for the Princesses life and freedom for several years. He founded Detained International in 2019, a British NGO. Detained International has given evidence to United Nations working groups on illegal detentions, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.
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