Dubai: A man claiming to be the Ambassador of the Principality of Hutt River has been charged along with two associates with conning people out of money and selling travel documents.
The Public Prosecution charged the 48-year-old French suspect, his 36-year-old female compatriot and a 28-year-old Pakistani man with swindling and attempting to con more than four people out of money by selling them land in the Hutt River Province and issuing travel documents.
"I am the ambassador of the Principality of Hutt River... We have approached the concerned authorities and are in the process of establishing an embassy herein. I have been detained for 70 days and the authorities confiscated my diplomatic passport. I am innocent," the suspect told the Dubai Court of Misdemeanour yesterday.
The suspect denied the charges through a French language translator.
When the judge asked him whether his country was identified among the list of diplomatic countries according to the UAE, he replied "it's still under process."
"My country has deputed me to set up an embassy... I need bail to hand in the proper documents to corroborate my claims," he added.
The female suspect also pleaded not guilty.
The defendants' lawyer Abdul Moneim Bin Suwaidian, of Abdul Moneim Bin Suwaidian Advocates and Legal Consultants, told Gulf News yesterday that the judge agreed to bail the three suspects.
Bin Suwaidan told the judge: "My clients claim to be diplomatic representatives... they need to be bailed in order prove their claims."
During yesterday's hearing, an Iranian claimant, identified as K., waived his complaint against the suspects who are believed to have issued him a travel document.
The court reconvenes soon.
Australian embassy: Province not recognised
According to the official website of the Principality of Hutt River, www.hutt-river-province.com, it is situated 595km north of Perth, Western Australia and consists of some 18,500 acres of land.
It states that Hutt River is an Independent Sovereign State having seceded from Australia on April 21, 1970. It adds its Prince Leonard named parts of the Principality with such identities as Lake Beginning, Mount Secession, Lake Serenity and Wild Boar Gorge.
Last October, the Australian Embassy in the UAE posted on its website a statement in which the Ambassador Jeremy Bruer said the Embassy had learned an office purporting to represent the "Hut River Province" was operating in Dubai and allegedly selling travel documents. He said the Australian Government did not recognise the province legally or in any other way.
The statement said the Hutt River Province is a privately owned wheat-growing property."It has no separate sovereignty and remains subject to the Australian Constitution and the laws of Australia."