Apprentice star Selina's Dubai hell
Apprentice star and entrepreneur Selina is facing a hefty jail sentence if she doesn’t pay out £27,750 GBP in a bounced cheque case - though she never wrote any cheque.
The South African man has been harassing and extorting Selina since 2019, prompting her to file a complaint with the Dubai Police. This man used legal loopholes in the UAE to set up the case against her while she was abroad on vacation, submitting false contact information for Selina so that the court never reached out to her. Consequently, she failed to make an appearance at the court hearing and was declared guilty without any further examination of his ‘evidence’.
He was posing as a wealthy investor and reached out to Selina's growing restaurant business in 2018. He claimed to have an abundance of large corporations, and entertained meetings in fancy offices and what he said was his own huge gym. They signed an agreement under UK law, and he invested a little bit of capital as seed money with the understanding that the full investment of about £200,000 with the necessary legal documents in the UAE would be finished after a trial period.
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But they never made it that far. The conman started demanding a salary from the business, an allowance to rent office space, and regular dividends - despite the seed money not being forthcoming.
“He stalled over the investment, with pocket change coming in dribs and drabs over six months, and before doing so he was heavily pressuring me to pay him a salary, and regular payouts. When I declined because these things were not in our agreement, he started to become very aggressive with me, making threats, shouting over the phone, and gaslighting me that this was “normal” in business for me to hand over access to my company funds. He also had months of free food daily from my restaurants and received company funds on my behalf without my knowledge,” Selina says of her ordeal.
It was then revealed that he wasn't legally permitted to invest in the UAE, a violation of the nation's policies which could result in legal ramifications. He then asked Selina to add him as a director on her trading licence, so that he and his wife could get their residency visa. In addition, she discovered that the story about him owning the gym was fabricated, leaving her work life in turmoil.
After just three months of working together Selina had a medical nervous breakdown and received mental health support; she was also diagnosed with PCOS, anaemia, adrenal exhaustion, a kidney infection, and hair loss from acute stress, for which she blames the gaslighting, the lack of promised funds, and living in a constant state of fear and stress. Ultimately, she had to remove herself from any connection to him.
By 2019 he refused further investment and to complete proper legal UAE paperwork, then demanded his smaller investment back - then confusingly changing his mind. Even after a year of costly litigation, he refused to dissolve the agreement or make further investment, leaving Selina struggling to balance the business and her declining health.
So followed a campaign of threats, cyber-harassment and phone calls from people claiming to be connected to him, as well as worrying Instagram posts where he spoke about ‘getting revenge’. He also sent her a 3-page letter full of threats about having her jailed, arrested, and denied entry to the USA, prompting her to contact local authorities.
Shortly after, he launched his own rival food company with an almost identical concept to Selina’s. Everything from the branding to the menus was a near-replica of her multi-brand kitchen concept, which was the only one of its kind in the UAE. She now knew why he’d refused to sign a severance agreement and leave her business, as this would have prevented him from using her intellectual property.
“He continued to cyberstalk me daily, via threats and invasive action, and find ways to intimidate me wherever I was. The love-bombing in the beginning with grand claims about his potential contribution to my business, and then his switch into an aggressive monster leads me to believe that this is narcissistic abuse. While the UAE has so many initiatives to support women in business, they should also be aware that men like this are out there looking to prey on solo women entrepreneurs like me, and will use their privileged status as a man to frighten and bully a female counterpart in a way that wouldn’t be as effective on a fellow man.”
She has also repeatedly spoken to police and lawyers about the ongoing abuse, which has now been going on for nearly five years. “Whenever I’ve spoken to authorities they’ve advised me that I had done nothing wrong legally and to “ignore him”, and that he would eventually get bored.” Sadly, this has not been the reality.
A distraught Selina eventually closed her business, feeling completely disillusioned after her experience and hoping that this would end the stalking, costing her many years of work and losing her own 75,000 GBP investment. But this wasn’t enough for him.
He was keeping tabs on her movements via her social media and when she left the UAE in 2021 for a much-needed vacation, he filed a civil case just a few days later - bizarrely filed as a bounce cheque case, which has draconian punishment in the UAE including seizure of assets, a travel ban, and jail time. No cheque was mentioned in his testimony, but instead a claim that Selina borrowed money from him and refused to return it - a claim she flatly denies.
“I will probably always have PTSD after being kidnapped and assaulted in 2013, especially when it comes to trusting men, and what I find most upsetting here is that I think this is why he targeted me, assuming that because I’m vulnerable I would be easier to manipulate. When I refused a lot of his demands for money, he resorted to more immoral tactics.”
Detained in Dubai has the full case file from the court and can confirm that there is no financial proof such as a cheque, bank statement, or receipt, that a loan or financial transaction ever took place, meaning that his testimony against Selina was accepted at face value, and she was denied a chance to defend herself or share evidence.
In a shocking turn of events, Selina was also jailed by CID in 2022, though they released her after 48 hours. “The CID urged me to pay the money so they could release me. I refused on the grounds that I don’t owe any money and explained that I would rather stay in jail as a protest than pay further funds to this man. They released me shortly after.”
After winning the case in absentia in 2021, and being awarded funds seized from her personal savings account, the swindling ‘businessman’ immediately sent Selina a new threat demanding a further £65,000, which she ignored on advice from her lawyer, and heard nothing further. She believes that these threats and blackmail-like demands will not stop until local authorities intervene.
“He’s even claimed in his testimony my business ideas were his - despite us operating for two years before he approached me. Now he’s filed a bounced cheque case but the case mentions a personal loan without any bank statements or proof, so clearly even he is confused as to the reason he’s demanding money this time round.”
Now Selina has been stuck in the UAE with a travel ban for two years, without a bank account or medical insurance, a blocked trade licence, and a soon-to-be-canceled residency visa, leaving her in dire straits. Despite there being scant evidence and no cheque, the court has refused to grant an appeal, claiming that his testimony is sufficient, and due to Sharia Law are unwilling to overturn the original decision of the judge. Her legal team has tried repeatedly to negotiate with the other party but he has declined, seemingly gloating over his actions.
“There have been times in the last two years where I have suffered extreme depression, as I can’t see any other way of escaping his abuse. He seems to relish having power over me and destroying a strong woman. A man so brazen about threats, harassment, and committing fraud, is a real danger to me, and potentially other female victims.”
Radha Stirling’s Detained in Dubai has said: “Convictions in Dubai and throughout the Emirates are usually foregone conclusion, with the courts reflexively adhering to the narratives suggested by the Public Prosecutor’s office.
Defendants rarely have the opportunity to submit evidence or defend themselves against the charges, and sentences issued in absentia are commonplace. Securing a conviction against a rival in the UAE is often simply as easy as making an accusation, as we see in Selina’s case. No substantial evidence is required, no proof, and the accused is frequently never even made aware of the case until they discover they have been convicted.
“Expats need to understand that the same impressions they have about Dubai as a great place to invest or start a business, also draws hordes of con men, fraudsters, and members of organised criminal enterprises to the UAE to prey upon legitimate business people; and these bad actors know very well how to exploit the gaping holes in the Dubai legal system. The UAE has successfully eased the rules on investment and company startup procedures, but has utterly failed to put protections in place to ensure the security and safety of investors and business owners. It is not for no reason that Dubai is called the Las Vegas of the Middle East; any investment in the UAE is essentially gambling, and the house rules are designed to drain the accounts of anyone who partakes.
“It is disturbing that Selina decided to give the country a second chance after the nightmare of her violent assault 10 years prior, only to once again find herself victimised by both a ruthless predator and the legal system that unquestioningly took his side. It is a harrowing and cautionary tale – one of countless others – that Western tourists and business people should keep uppermost in their minds when considering visiting or moving to the UAE.”
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Detained in Dubai: http://www.detainedindubai.org
Detained in Doha: https://www.detainedindoha.org
Radha Stirling: http://www.radhastirling.com
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