Aussie couple Marcus Lee and wife Julie cleared to fly out of Dubai

Marcus and Julie Lee in Dubai, with their dog Dudley. Photo: Supplied
Marcus and Julie Lee in Dubai, with their dog Dudley. Photo: Supplied

For the second time in two days Australian businessman Marcus Lee is scheduled to fly out of Dubai, this time accompanied to the airport by Australian consular officials to smooth the way.

Mr Lee, after twice being cleared of fraud charges in Dubai, was set to board an aircraft for Sydney with his wife Julie on Friday but was refused permission to board the aircraft on security grounds at the last minute.

In an episode his Australian lawyer John Sneddon described as a "farce" and a "joke", it appears a bureaucratic bungle prolonged Mr Lee's five-year battle to clear his name.

"What we have been informed is that someone at Jebel Ali police station didn't remove the flag against his name, in spite of Marcus and [Australian] ambassador [Pablo] Kang being assured that that had occurred," Mr Sneddon said.

Jebel Ali police station was the site of Mr Lee's original arrest on Australia Day five years ago. Along with his former Australian boss at the state-controlled development Dubai Waterfront, Matt Joyce, he was accused of property fraud and spent nine months in jail, including two months in solitary confinement.

Both men were acquitted and Mr Joyce and his wife Angela Higgins returned to Melbourne in December. But Mr and Mrs Lee stayed behind seeking the return of his passport and bail money so he could clear his debts. They also wanted to wait for clearances for their dog Dudley.

Mr Sneddon said his client had broken into a cold sweat at the airport on Friday after being told he would be "taken down to state security and the Dubai public prosecutor" .

"He was concerned he was going to be imprisoned again. He was horrified," Mr Sneddon said.

A flurry of diplomatic negotiations between the Australian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Pablo Kang, and senior representatives from the Dubai foreign ministry have resulted in the couple being rebooked on an Emirates flight which leaves Dubai on Sunday morning and arrives in Sydney at 7am Monday.

As part of the negotiated agreement, the pair will be accompanied to the airport by the Australian consul-general in Dubai and an Arabic-speaking senior liaison officer, Mr Sneddon said.

Following their two-hour ordeal at the airport on Friday, the Lees went to a hotel. Their funds exhausted after four years under effective house arrest, they had to borrow $3000 from an Australian friend in Dubai to tide them through the latest setback.

Mr Sneddon said they had been charged a $300 per person "no show" fee for failing to board their flight on Friday, "notwithstanding the fact that they were there, but due to a bureaucratic bungle weren't allowed to get on a plane".

Mr Lee's mother, brother, aunt and friends were expected to be at Sydney airport to greet the couple on Monday. His father, stepfather and grandmother have all died in the years since his troubles began in 2009.

This story Aussie couple Marcus Lee and wife Julie cleared to fly out of Dubai first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.