A welcome-home party, waving Australian flags, greeted Marcus Lee at Sydney Airport on Monday, when the executive explained why he had been trapped in Dubai for five years.
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'I've been caught up in a grubby dispute'
Businessman Marcus Lee lands at Sydney Airport after fighting fraud charges in Dubai for almost five years.
"Unfortunately, I've been caught up in a grubby dispute between a lot of self-interested property developers," he said.
Acquitted three times of property fraud before he could finally return home, Mr Lee landed in Sydney at 8.10am with his wife Julie - three days after State Security in Dubai, in a bureaucratic error, stopped them from boarding their scheduled flight home.
Mr Lee did not want to elaborate on the "grubby" deals that led to his arrest with fellow Australian Matthew Joyce on Australia Day in 2009, but he said he might seek compensation and damages from the United Arab Emirates for his "unjust" treatment.
"It's just overwhelming to see so many people here," Mr Lee told reporters.
"It's been what we've dreamed about for five years now, and look, even down to the last couple of days it's been quite traumatic."
Mr Lee said he and Julie just wanted to "get on with our lives" now the ordeal was over.
"I wasn't just once acquitted in Dubai on appeal; I was acquitted three times from the outset," he said.
"Look, I was speaking to Julie on the plane and I said, 'You can give me me $10 million, $20 million, $30 million tomorrow, but how do you rebuild five years of your life? How do you get back your 40th birthday in solitary when the guards were laughing at me. How do you get that back?' "
Mrs Lee said her husband still had violent dreams, but when they were halted at the airport on Friday, "I felt so ill, I felt so sick, [but] I looked at Marcus and he was just calm."
"I think I was just numb," Mr Lee said. "It wasn't any heroics."
"I think throughout all this you've just maintained your dignity and shown to be just a wonderful man," Mrs Lee said.
Mr Lee and Mr Joyce were jailed for nine months, then held under effective house arrest until last November, when both were finally acquitted of fraud charges.
An Australian firm, Sunland, had claimed Mr Joyce and yet another Australian, Angus Reed, duped it into believing Mr Reed’s company, Prudentia, had secured a right to develop a plot of land on Dubai Waterfront known as D17.
Sunland and Dubai prosecutors had alleged they split the proceeds of $13.5 million which it paid Prudentia so Sunalnd could then buy the plot from the state-run developer, Nakheel.
But Australian courts found Sunland’s executives were unreliable witnesses and that the firm knowingly paid Prudentia the money to walk away from a joint venture on D17. The Dubai Court of Appeal finally found that Sunland’s claims could not be substantiated.
Mr Joyce and his wife and three children returned to Melbourne last month.
Surrounded by television cameras, Mr Lee said it became clear early on - even to the prosecutors - that he played no role in the alleged plot and he was simply doing his job.
He praised his Australian lawyer, John Sneddon, who has worked on the case pro bono from the outset.
"He's been an absolute rock for us and we just couldn't have done it without him.," Mr Lee said. "I don't know how ever we'll repay him. I said I'd be his coffee person for the next 20 years, and you [Julie] his tea lady."
Mr Lee has not been allowed to work while fighting to clear his name, which has meant selling their Australian home to pay the legal bills.
They have lost everything, and five members of Mr Lee's family – including his father and stepfather – have died in his absence.
Mr Sneddon said they were happy that Mr Joyce had been cleared and that he and his family were home safely.
"Julie said I've got to look at taking a bit of a break but I think one of the best things I could do is go back to work and start to exist in a bit of a normalised society again, and have a beer after work on a Friday and talk about some rubbish over football or something."
Mrs Lee described the fear the couple had experienced in Dubai as "unbelievable".
"It was totally unknown, it was totally out of the blue," she told reporters.
"It's unbelievable how tough it has been."
She said the couple's Yorkshire terrier Dudley, who had at one point delayed their exit from Dubai, was also on his way home.
"He's going through the quarantine process at the moment so he'll be with us shortly," she added.
Mr Lee's mother, Carol McKinley, said she never thought her son would get home.