By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA (Reuters) - Bailed U.S. businessman Zack Shahin fled the United Arab Emirates to Yemen because he feared for his life after threats were made against him, his U.S.-based legal team said on Monday, but a Dubai security official denies this.
A Yemeni security source said Shahin, the former chief executive of Dubai real estate developer Deyaar who had been jailed since 2008 for embezzlement, had slipped into Yemen after a car trip across Oman from the UAE.
Shahin, now in Yemeni custody, went on hunger strike in May and was freed on $1.4 million bail last month after U.S. authorities expressed concerns about his health.
"The man entered Yemen by car last week ... He is currently being detained in Sanaa," the security source told Reuters.
Smuggling and undocumented travel is common across Yemen's porous desert borders.
Shahin is set to be deported back to the UAE this week, Yemeni sources told Reuters on Sunday.
In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Shahin's legal team said the businessman jumped his bail because he feared for his safety after threats were made against him.
A Dubai security official denied Shahin had been in any danger. "This is all nonsense," the official said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
"He was on bail so he should have waited for the complete legal procedures. He could have complained to the U.S. embassy if that was true."
Dubai police and the U.S. embassies in Sanaa and Abu Dhabi all declined to comment.
The former executive's flight may embarrass U.S. authorities, who had exerted pressure on the UAE to resolve Shahin's case, especially after he went on hunger strike. There have been hearings on his case in Dubai, but no judgment.
(Additional reporting by Mirna Sleiman in Dubai and Raissa Kasolowsky in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Amran Abocar and Mark Heinrich)