Man trapped in Dubai for two years over £2 taxi fare row

Forced to sleep rough

Updated: 

A British ex-politician was detained in Dubai for two years after an angry taxi driver accused him of failing to pay a £2 fare. See SWNS story SWDUBAI; David’s own Dubai ordeal began in May 2013 with a mix up over a ride in a government owned state taxi. There had been some confusion with the taxi driver setting off with the wrong people in the car. David had told the taxi driver to stop, but the driver ignored him for 50 metres before pulling over near a policeman. The driver angrily complained to the officer, who told David to pay the minimum amount of AED 10 (£2). David went to an ATM a few metres away and withdrew some cash. He dropped the money into the cab window. Having paid the £2, he went back to his friends.

A Scottish man is finally back in the UK after a row with a taxi driver led to him being trapped in Dubai for two years.

Businessman David Ballantine, 46, had his passport confiscated and was forced to sleep in hotel toilets during his ordeal.

See also: Brit faces jail in Dubai over fake £20 note

See also: How to make a claim when your holiday goes wrong

The story began when Mr Ballantine climbed into a cab with a group of friends, before realising there had been a mix-up about who was supposed to be getting a lift. He asked the driver to pull over - but, instead, the cabbie stopped a policeman and complained.

Mr Ballantine was told to pay the driver the minimum fare of about £2, withdrew some money from a nearby cashpoint and dropped it through the driver's window.

However, the driver refused to acknowledge the payment.

"The driver must not have seen the note. He accused me of not paying. I told him I had, and showed him where it was," Mr Ballantine tells the Daily Record.

"He claimed that was his money. He was angry by now, not wanting to admit that he could be wrong."

Mr Ballantine was then arrested and his passport confiscated so that he couldn't leave the country. Unable to work legally, he picked up some 'off-the-books' jobs, but was so poor he was forced to sleep in hotel toilets.

He was eventually sentenced to 69 days in jail, after which he was finally able to return to the UK.

Mr Ballantine says he feels let down by the British government.

"They visited once, and gave me a list of lawyers that I couldn't afford," he says.

He is now part of a class action lawsuit against the government for failing in its duty of care. The case is being prepared by lawyer Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai.

"The FCO, while giving some travel advice, have not provided remotely sufficient information to the British public to help them avoid arrest," she says.

"The majority of British nationals travelling to the UAE are committing 'crimes' without knowing it, such as sharing certain posts on Facebook and Twitter, drinking alcohol on the flight, sharing a room with their partner, holding hands in public and so on.

"The government does not advise citizens of the serious flaws in the judicial system that could leave people locked up for years merely on one person's hearsay accusation."

Other recent cases of detention in Dubai include Jamie Harron, 26, who was recently sentenced to three months imprisonment for accidentally touching the hip of a man in a bar. He was released and returned to the UK after Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, quashed his conviction.

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