Robert Urwin, 67, (pictured) was arrested in the Ukraine in November over a cheque that bounced in Dubai 13 years ago
A British shipping company manager was thrown in a Ukraine jail for more than a month after wrongly being arrested over a bounced cheque written 13 years ago.
Robert Urwin had to share a cell with murderers and rapists while being held over the £30,000 cheque written in Dubai that he insists he didn’t even write.
Despite being released from prison without charge, the 67-year-old still can’t leave the Ukraine because an Interpol arrest remains in place.
Speaking to MailOnline from the city of Odessa where his is living awaiting clearance to return home to Newcastle, Robert said: ‘It has just been a nightmare and I want to go home to my wife.
‘I’ve never committed a crime in my life and yet I ended up in jail for a bounced cheque that I had nothing to do with. I wasn’t even in the country when the cheque was written and am the victim of identity theft.
‘But until the Interpol notice is lifted I am a stuck here and it just seems so unfair.’
Robert was thrown in jail (pictured) as soon as he arrived in the Ukraine where he says the cell was run by a mafia style gangster who was running the prison block
Robert said he had a prison cell to himself until one of the guards blackmailed him by saying the shipping manager had to pay him £10,000 or he would have to share it with murderers
The British grandfather, from Tyne and Wear, spent 45 days in this prison (above) but was released when neither Dubai or HSBC bank could offer any further evidence against him
Robert was visiting the Ukraine last November for Newcastle-based ASP Shipping Management when he was suddenly arrested at the airport.
He was told that he was being held on what is known as a Interpol Red notice – a request for an arrest – issued by the HSBC bank in Dubai.
The bank claimed that Robert had written a cheque from his personal account in 2006 that later bounced.
Robert had documents to prove that he had left Dubai the previous year and had not signed the cheque.
He said: ‘The cheque was from my personal account but when it was written I had left the country.
‘I had not lived in Dubai for the previous six months. All I can think of is that someone used my identity and wrote the cheque. I did not even have access to the cheque book.
‘I could not believe it when the authorities told me why I was being arrested. I had nothing to do with the cheque and to this day have no idea who wrote it. To say I was in shock at the airport when I was arrested would be an understatement. I just could not believe what was going on.’
After being held in a police station in Kiev he appeared in court and was transferred to a detention centre where his ordeal took a more sinister turn.
Robert’s wife Valerie (above) visited him in Ukraine soon after he left prison but during her stay slipped and broke her shoulder leaving her in agony and she has remained in the UK since
Robert said the food consisted of inedible Russian war rations and there was no hot water for showers or washing.
He was also victim of extortion from a mafia type gangster who ran the cell block.
‘I asked for some water and had to pay 50 Euros for a single bottle, he said. ‘The gangster who ran the cell was always trying to get money.’
After initially having a cell to himself he was pulled aside by prison guards who gave him a choice of either paying a £10,000 bribe or be put in with murders and a triple killer.
‘I’ve never seen the inside of a cell in my life and it was just terrifying. If I did not pay the money then my life would have been hell. Everyday they were trying to get me to pay more money. I ended up sharing a cell with three Russians who fortunately were quite civilised.’
After 45 days Robert was released and told that the Dubai authorities or HSBC Bank had not applied for his extradition and offered no further evidence of the alleged fraud.
But he was told the bank had not asked for the red notice to be scrapped meaning he could still be arrested if he tried to leave the country.
He also learned that the red notice was first issued in 2013 yet in the five years before his arrest he had visited dozens of countries and had not faced any questions.
‘I had been to the US, Cyprus, Singapore and other countries where I was just walked through immigration. I can’t understand how if there was a red notice for all this time it was only picked up last year.’
Robert said his wife Valerie came to visit him from their home in South Shields,Tyne and Wear, soon after leaving prison but during her stay slipped and broke her shoulder.
He was also visited by his daughters Rebecca and Joanne and having secured a flat to live in was able to continue working for his company from their office in Odessa.
Robert, with one of his daughters, has been living in a flat in Odessa since his release from jail. He has continued to work at the shipping company while he isn’t allowed to leave the Ukraine
Lawyers have told Robert if he tries to leave Ukraine he will be arrested at the airport and forced to spent another 45 days in jail.
He said:’ I am in this awful position where I want to leave but too scared to go to the airport as I will be arrested. My name will be flagged up by the red notice and I do not want to go back to jail.’
The campaigning group Detained in Dubai have applied to Interpol to have the red notice lifted at the HQ in Lyon, France.
But the international crime fighting organisation usually takes up to nine months to remove a red notice from their data base.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, said UAE banks often use Interpol as an unofficial debt collecting agency.
She said: ‘Interpol just accepts the requests and list the names they have been given, regardless of whether or not the alleged crime falls under Interpol mandate.
‘It is left to individuals who have been wrongly listed to appeal for the removal of their names from the database.
‘It is very disturbing to see that Interpol abuse we have commonly associated with authoritarian governments now being perpetrated by a major international bank like HSBC.’
HSBC have been contacted for a comment.
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