Ex-Royal Marines reservist held in Dubai on spying charges

<span>Matt Croucher, who was awarded the George Cross medal for bravery after throwing himself on a grenade in Afghanistan.</span><span>Photograph: Mark Chilvers</span>
Matt Croucher, who was awarded the George Cross medal for bravery after throwing himself on a grenade in Afghanistan.Photograph: Mark Chilvers

A former Royal Marines reservist awarded the highest medal for gallantry has reportedly been held in Dubai since November after being accused of spying.

The former lance corporal Matt Croucher, 40, was awarded the George Cross, which ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for acts of bravery, in 2008 after risking his life and saving others by throwing himself on a grenade in Afghanistan.

Croucher, now a security consultant, was arrested seven months ago and charged with “intentionally and illegally accessing a telecommunications network”, according to the Times.

It was also reported that he had his passport confiscated and has been banned from leaving the United Arab Emirates.

Croucher is from Solihull and is normally based in the UK for work. He is the most highly decorated Royal Marine to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a statement, Croucher’s family said they were suffering from “immense stress” and the case was “made up and ridiculous”.

“We’re shocked at the set of circumstances which have played out over the last seven months,” they said. “Matt was due to only be away for a couple of weeks, returning through Dubai after working in the Middle East on his way home.

“We don’t understand why it’s taking the Dubai authorities so long to process this case, being constantly told it should be resolved in a week or two, a case we believe to be made up and ridiculous.”

The family also criticised the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for being “useless” in offering Croucher assistance, adding that the department was “often making things worse with misinformation, telling him the case was formally concluded and would only take one to two months”.

“This has caused our family immense stress and we just hope this can be concluded at the earliest opportunity,” they said.

Croucher has sought legal advice from lawyers in the UK and the UAE who can make representations on his behalf with the UAE authorities.

A source said the British government cannot interfere in the legal processes of another country, in the same way other countries cannot interfere in cases in the UK.

Croucher was arrested on 4 November 2023 and jailed for four days before being released under investigation.

The Dubai authorities confiscated his phone, passport and internet banking access device, the Times reported.

Friends said he had been working in Qatar and Saudi Arabia and was stopping off in Dubai to meet friends on his way home to the UK.

Croucher had lived in Dubai from 2014 until 2021 and had worked with authorities on security-related matters.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are supporting a British man in the UAE and are in contact with the local authorities.”

In 2008, Croucher, a reservist from Taunton-based 40 Commando, was on a covert reconnaissance mission near Sangin, south of Kajaki, when he felt a tripwire go tight against his legs.

Instead of running away, he threw himself on top of the grenade, using his body armour and backpack to shield him from the full force of the blast.

Croucher is one of only 22 living recipients of the George Cross, of which only 406 have been awarded.