Irish developer banged up abroad in one of world’s most notorious prisons over €500,000 debt
Eileen White revealed her brother John White is sharing a tiny cell with five other men in Abu Dhabi’s draconian Al Wathba prison
The distraught sister of a property developer has revealed how he’s been jailed in one of the world’s most notorious prisons because of a €500,000 debt.
Eileen White revealed her brother John White is sharing a tiny cell with five other men in Abu Dhabi’s draconian Al Wathba prison.
John’s construction business in the Middle East went bust in the recession when clients stopped paying him.
He was arrested in 2012 for owing money to his creditors and he will have to repay his debt in full after completing a five-year sentence in 2017.
Eileen told the Irish Daily Mirror: “It’s horrendous.
“Even when he does get out of jail, he won’t be allowed out the country until he pays his debt.
“If his clients paid him back what they owe him - which is a lot more than his debts - then he’d be able to settle it straight away.
“It’s a shocking state of affairs really.”
Eileen raised awareness of her brother’s plight on RTE Radio One’s Liveline, where she revealed he was first handed a two and a half year sentence, which was later extended in his absence - a practice which would be unlawful in Ireland.
She told Joe Duffy: “I paid some of the fines for him so the time [the first sentence] was reduced a little bit.
“And at the end of his sentence, he went to court to get his passport to go home, and he was told that one of the people had taken out a civil case against him and he was sentenced to three years in his absence.
“So that’s a five year sentence he’s after getting altogether.”
Eileen pointed out that her brother’s clients who owed him money were also jailed because of their debts, but because they were Emiratis, the leader of the United Arab Emirates gave them his pardon and they were released.”
John, who is originally from Clonmel, Co Tipperary , has tried to obtain his release by pointing out that being sentenced in his absence, without a court hearing, is a human rights violation.
And Eileen told the Irish Daily Mirror yesterday that she hopes Amnesty International will intervene on his behalf.
In the meantime, she painted a horrific picture of his living conditions.
“The food is atrocious. The sanitary conditions diabolical.
“He’s not allowed out for exercise.
“It’s very hot in the day, 50C, and the nights are very cold.”
The prison’s tiny windows have no glass so sand gets everywhere.
She added: ”John is in a room of 4mx4m and there’s six people in it.
“That’ s the size of my sitting room and there’s six grown men living in that.”
She explained that the prisoners share an open toilet and that John keeps his mind occupied by working seven hours a day in a workshop making tables and chairs.
Visits are strictly limited and last a maximum of 15 minutes so John has asked his family not to make the trip.
Eileen said: “Under the circumstances he’s very well and his health is good, thanks be to God.
“And the only positive thing, if there is a positive in all of this, is that John is not ill treated in any way. Thank God.”