Aussie businessman home after five-year fraud case

By Sam McKeith

Marcus Lee spent nine months in prison, including a stint in solitary confinement, followed by more than 3 years under effective house arrest. Photo / Thinkstock
Marcus Lee spent nine months in prison, including a stint in solitary confinement, followed by more than 3 years under effective house arrest. Photo / Thinkstock

Australian businessman Marcus Lee says touching down on home soil feels like a dream after spending almost five years fighting fraud charges in Dubai.

"It's just overwhelming to see so many people here," Lee said at Sydney airport with his wife Julie yesterday.

"It's been what we've dreamed about for five years now, and look, even down to the last couple of days it has been quite traumatic."

Lee and fellow Australian Matthew Joyce were arrested by Dubai authorities in January 2009 following an investigation by the country's Financial Audit Office over a 2007 transaction involving Gold Coast property developer Sunland.

Lee spent nine months in prison, including a stint in solitary confinement, followed by more than 3 years under effective house arrest.

On Friday, Lee and his wife tried to board a flight home but were turned away by authorities.

The couple were finally allowed to leave the city one weekend after the Australian Ambassador to Dubai reportedly intervened on their behalf.

Lee said he and Julie just wanted to "get on with our lives" now the ordeal was over.

"I wasn't just once acquitted in Dubai on appeal, I was acquitted three times from the outset," he said after being mobbed by friends and family at Kingsford Smith Airport.

"It was very clear very early on I was clearly just doing my job and that was found in all judgments.

"I've been caught up in the middle of a grubby dispute between a lot of self-interested property developers."

Speaking alongside Julie and his lawyer John Sneddon, Lee said he would be seeking damages and compensation for his ordeal under UAE labour laws.

"You can give me ... 30 million [dollars] tomorrow but how do you rebuild five years of your life? How do you get back your 40th birthday in solitary?"

The homecoming comes after a Dubai court last year convicted Joyce as well as Melbourne businessman Angus Reed in absentia of duping Sunland into giving them A$12 million ($12.7 million).

Lee was cleared of the charges but the Dubai Public Prosecutor appealed against his acquittal.

All three were later acquitted of the charges, with Joyce returning to Australia in December.

Julie Lee described the fear experienced in Dubai as "unbelievable".

Lee's mum, Carol McKinley, said she never thought her son would get home.

- AAP

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