Man to seek redress from Czech prison hell
A former Bermuda resident who was detained in a Czech prison for months over an alleged credit card debt in the Middle East is to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Alan Stevenson, who worked in IT at HSBC in Bermuda from the mid to late 2000s, said he had fallen victim to “abuse” of international police agency Interpol's arrest-warrant system over a debt with the Qatar National Bank he had not incurred.
Radha Stirling, Mr Stevenson's lawyer and the founder and chief executive of London-based criminal and civil justice specialist Detained in Dubai, said the debt “could simply have been that Qatar National Bank placed interest charges and legal fees on the account without justification”.
She added that “no evidence was produced or provided to the Czech courts” to back up an extradition request.
Ms Stirling said the bank also refused to co-operate with Mr Stevenson's family when they asked for evidence and insisted that money or blank cheques should be sent before it withdrew the charges.
Ms Stirling added that the incident showed that “the Interpol red notice was issued to harass and pressure Mr Stevenson to send money. These countries are using Interpol as a mechanism of extortion”.
Mr Stevenson said conditions in Prague's Pankrac Remand, where he was held for 4½ months, were “deplorable”.
He added that he was kept on 23-hour-a-day lockdown and his weight had dropped by 44lbs.
Mr Stevenson said: “I intend taking up the case with the European Court of Human Rights. This will take many years.
“My advice to anyone thinking of working in the Gulf region would be to stay well away and certainly don't engage in any services from financial organisations in the region.
“Qatar is still governed by barbaric Sharia laws, which have no place in a modern society.”
Mr Stevenson worked as an IT manager in Doha in 2013 and opened a bank account with the Qatar National Bank, which required him to submit a blank cheque as collateral against the card to be used to cover any outstanding balance if he ever failed to pay.
He claimed he left Qatar with a zero balance.
Mr Stevenson, a British-Australian dual national, was on his way from Australia to visit his sick mother in Britain on June 2 last year when he was arrested in Prague.
His detention was based on an Interpol red notice that he claimed was falsely obtained by the Qatar National Bank six years earlier.
He faced fraud allegations in the Czech courts on June 5 based on two bounced cheques.
Mr Stevenson said: “The conviction for an alleged bounced cheque was apparently obtained in Qatar in my absence without my knowledge. The first I knew about it was in Prague in court on that morning.”
He added: “The attempted extortion continued until my release in October 2019. My mother passed away in the morning on this same day in the UK.”
The Czech courts refused extradition in December last year because no evidence was submitted by the bank.
Mr Stevenson said that Interpol had started an investigation into the incident.
Interpol, the Qatar National Bank and Qatari Government did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the Czech justice ministry said it was concerned by the “disproportionate number of red notices” issued by some countries on allegations of bank fraud, but that the Czech authorities had no control over Interpol's decisions.