Robert Urwin 'trapped' in Ukraine over bounced cheque

Image source, Family Photo
Image caption,
Robert Urwin was in a Ukrainian prison cell with convicted murderers

A British man stranded in Ukraine for a year over a bounced cheque that he did not write has demanded to be allowed to return home.

Robert Urwin, 67, from South Shields, was jailed over claims he wrote the £30,000 cheque 13 years ago in Dubai.

He was eventually cleared but has been unable to return home because of an outstanding arrest warrant.

The Foreign Office said it was talking to authorities in Ukraine in an effort to secure his return to the UK.

Mr Urwin, who works for a Tyneside shipping agent, was accused of writing the cheque on his personal account while in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It was paid into a branch of HSBC in Dubai in 2006 - a year after Mr Urwin left the UAE. When it bounced, the bank asked Interpol to issue a warrant for his arrest - known as a Red Notice.

The father-of-two and grandfather remained oblivious to the situation until he arrived in Ukraine for a conference in October 2018 and was detained at the airport.

He spent more than 40 days in an Odessa prison cell, with convicted murderers and rapists, awaiting an appeal.

Image source, Robert Urwin
Image caption,
Mr Urwin spent more than 40 days in an Odessa jail
Image source, Robert Urwin
Image caption,
The shipping agent worker said he was put in a freezing cell with convicted murderers

He successfully argued he was the victim of identity fraud but despite being released in December 2018 he has remained stranded in Ukraine because of an outstanding warrant and extradition request from the UAE authorities.

Lawyers for Mr Urwin, who is living in an apartment in Odessa paid for by his employer, said he would be detained again if he attempted to leave the country.

His family said they were "seriously concerned" his mental health was deteriorating and feared he may never escape the "bureaucratic nightmare".

Image caption,
Mr Urwin's daughter said she feared for his mental health

Mr Urwin said: "This is an abuse of my human rights.

"When you've been detained according to the judicial requirements of Ukraine and released with your passport and a letter from the court confirming you've been released, as a British citizen you should be allowed free travel to your home country.

"It's unbelievable I'm still stuck here."

His daughter, Joanne Hazeldine, added: "We can't see a way out of this without help from our government.

"We are all very worried about dad's mental health now. We know how this is affecting him and we are worried he is never going to come back."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are supporting a British man in Ukraine, and our staff are in contact with his family and lawyers.

"Our staff have spoken to Interpol on his behalf to obtain clarity on the status of a Red Notice, as well as the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice regarding the removal of an arrest warrant."

HSBC said it would not comment on Mr Urwin's case, as did the Ukrainian Embassy in London.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interpol have been approached for comment.

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