A British football coach has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai after four small bottles of vape liquid containing cannabis oil were found in his car.
Billy Hood of Notting Hill, west London, was given the harsh sentence despite being able to prove that the vape liquid belonged to a visiting friend she accidentally left in his car.
The 24-year-old fitness buff, who is anti-drug and non-smoker, has been convicted by a court of drug trafficking with intent to deliver.
Police in Dubai allegedly picked Hood after following WhatsApp messages and searching for keywords related to drugs. A week before his arrest, the friend who owned the vape liquid sent a message that Hood had accidentally left him in his car.
British football coach Billy Hood, 24, from London, (pictured) has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai after four small bottles of vape liquid containing cannabis oil were found in his car
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed was revealed last week that he had used spyware to hack into the phone of his ex-wife and her lawyer Baroness Shackleton while a custody hearing was taking place in the High Court.
The United Arab Emirates are known for being users of the Israeli-made spyware known as Pegasus.
Hood, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, was stunned when police unexpectedly showed up at his flat in January and demanded that he search his home and company car.
Four small bottles of cannabis oil (CBD) vape liquid and a vape pen were later found in the passenger door.
After his arrest, Hood offered to take a urine test for drugs that were negative.
Vape liquid containing CBD (cannabis oil) is sold by high street shops in the UK and is perfectly legal, although they must contain less than 0.2% THC, the ingredient that causes users to get ‘high’.
Cannabis and cannabis oil are illegal in Dubai, where drugs are not tolerated.
Billy said, ‘I don’t smoke vape pens, cigarettes or even sheesha. I am very anti-drugs and spend my days coaching in schools with children.
“I had just moved to a new house in Dubai and was going to get a phone charger from my car when I was suddenly approached by the police.
“They jumped out to arrest me, handcuffed me. An officer pointed a taser at me and threatened to use it if I didn’t cooperate.
Police in Dubai are said to have singled out Billy (left, with his aunt) after following WhatsApp messages, because a week before his arrest, the friend, who possessed the vape liquid, sent a message that he accidentally put it in his car. had left
“They demanded that I show them where the drugs were. I was shocked and confused and told them I had no drugs on me.’
Hood said one of the arresting officers said they were interested in him through social media but did not bring his phone or computer. He claims that there was no mention of the vape liquid on social media, but in one WhatsApp message.
Police also found several thousand pounds in cash in his flat, but Hood’s employers told police they had paid him money while his bank account was being set up.
The pressure group Detained in Dubai, which represents the family, believes the only explanation for the unannounced police emergence could be that authorities are monitoring WhatsApp and reading the message about the vape liquid.
Vape liquid containing CBD with less than 0.2% THC is legal in the UK, but illegal in Dubai where there is no tolerance for drugs (stock image)
Hood was held at a police station for four days, where he was told that if he did not sign a confession in Arabic, he would never be allowed to leave.
Relatives said he was so scared and tired that he agreed not to know that he had admitted to such serious crimes.
When Hood appeared in court last week and was convicted of drug smuggling, possession and delivery and given the maximum sentence.
His concerned family are pinning their hopes on an appeal next week, in which lawyers will allege he was bullied into signing the confession and prove there is no evidence the vape liquid belonged to him.
His brother Alex told Mail Online: ‘It was difficult to cope with Billy’s continued detention and the idea that he could be in prison until he is 50.
“You couldn’t meet anyone more fitness-oriented than Billy. He has never been involved in drugs and does not even smoke. We never thought that moving to Dubai would be a one-way ticket.’
The family has criticized the British embassy in Dubai, which they say has not visited Billy in the nine months he has been in prison.”
Hood’s mother Breda, 52, said: ‘I have found myself crying and crying when I think about what my son is going through.
“It is impossible for him to be involved in drugs and my son does not deserve this and I appeal to Sheikh Mohammed to intervene in this matter. My son is innocent.’
Radha Sterling, founder of Detained in Dubai, said: The handling of drug cases by the Dubai police has led to numerous unfair detentions of foreigners.
“We have seen people arrested and even convicted without evidence, often on the basis of a forced confession in Arabic or from a third party.
Drug convictions are prestigious for the police and lead to promotions and the courts do not need substantial evidence to reach a conviction. Strangers find it almost impossible to be heard honestly and false accusations are common.’