Dubai is being promoted as a luxury high-class paradise in the desert, but the reality is brutally different, as Australian Alicia Gali discovered. Gali took a job in the UAE with one of the world’s biggest hotel chains, Starwood. What happened next makes this story a must-watch for every Australian planning on travelling through the region.
Now, finally home and struggling to move on with her life, Alicia breaks her silence for the first time on television to reporter Ross Coulthart.
Reporter: Ross Coulthart Â / Â Producer: Ali Russell
With Dubai emerging as a major stopover point for long haul journeys, five hundred flights a month will deliver over one million of us to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the next year.
Gali was using her laptop in the hotel’s staff bar when her drink was spiked. She awoke to a nightmare beyond belief: she had been savagely raped by three of her colleagues. Alone and frightened, she took herself to hospital. What Alicia didn’t know is that under the UAE’s strict sharia laws, if the perpetrator does not confess, a rape cannot be convicted without four adult Muslim male witnesses. She was charged with having illicit sex outside marriage, and thrown in a filthy jail cell for eight months.
Sunday Night emailed Alicia’s employer in the UAE, Starwood Hotels, with a detailed list of questions pertaining to her case. This was their response:
“What happened in June 2008 to Alicia Gali, a former employee of Le MÃ©ridien Al Aqah hotel, was deplorable. While the hotel worked diligently on Ms. Gali’s behalf, the authorities investigated and prosecuted Ms. Gali under the local laws. Additionally, the men involved were also prosecuted and each served prison terms before being deported. As for Ms. Gali’s lawsuit against the hotel, we disagree with the allegations.
The hotel management provided support and assistance to Ms. Gali and her family throughout that time,
including assisting with medical support and the investigation, liaising with her representative Australian embassy and coordinating and arranging affairs with her family in Australia.â€¨â€¨Starwood’s repeated approaches to discuss Ms. Gali’s claim with her attorneys have been ignored and declined. As this matter is part of an open on-going Starwood investigation and litigation commenced by Ms. Gali against Starwood and the Commonwealth of Australia, we cannot comment further at this time.
The safety and security of our associates and guests continues to be a paramount priority.”
We also contacted the Australian government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with a detailed list of questions regarding Alicia’s case. This was their response:
Â “The Department rejects Ms Gali’s account of her dealings with the Australian Consulate in Dubai, as suggested in your letter of 7 May 2013. Ms Gali was provided with extensive consular assistance by the Australian Consulate in Dubai. Our consular officers do not give legal advice, but do assist Australians in trouble to obtain local legal advice.
As this matter is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, the Department is unable to respond to the questions raised in your letter or participate in the Sunday Night program. The Department will present its position as necessary during the course of the legal proceedings.”
- The Australian government’s advice to travellers to the UAE
- A list of banned substances in the UAE, including codeine