Some FlyerTalk members were initially puzzled by a statement on the official facebook Internet web site of Starwood Hotels and Resorts posted yesterday morning, Sunday, May 12, 2013 about the alleged rape of Alicia Gali by her co-workers at the Le Méridien Al Aqah hotel in June of 2008, followed by her subsequent imprisonment for eight months because her rape is supposedly considered an admission of engaging in illicit sex outside of marriage — an illegal act in the United Arab Emirates under the charge of adultery.
Here is the official statement supposedly posted by Starwood Hotels and Resorts:
“What happened in June 2008 to Alicia Gali, a former employee of Le Méridien Al Aqah hotel, was deplorable and we are deeply sorry for her ordeal. This was a horrible situation and the hotel was limited in what it could do for Ms. Gali because of the local laws under which she was prosecuted. The men involved were 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 including assisting with the investigation, liaising with her representative Australian embassy and visiting her regularly.
“Starwood’s repeated approaches to Ms. Gali’s lawyers over the past 18 months to discuss her claims and their possible resolution 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.”
Although not officially confirmed, it would not surprise me that the decision of Gali to break her silence and finally relate her side of the story to the media may have been the impetus for Starwood Hotels and Resorts to publicly post the aforementioned statement.
The following two videos — 21 minutes and 50 seconds combined — are from an interview with Gali conducted by reporter Ross Coulthart, released on Sunday, May 12, 2013 by Yahoo! 7 News Sunday Night in her native Australia:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia reportedly rejected Gali’s account of her dealings with the Australian Consulate in Dubai.
Gali is back home, struggling to return to living a normal life even though she was reportedly diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder, is unable to work, and has had to borrow money from family and friends to pay hospital and counseling. Gali had been reportedly considering filing legal action against the hotel, which is a possible second reason for the release of the official statement — especially since Starwood Hotels and Resorts disagrees with the allegations.
Meanwhile, the four men charged with raping her were reportedly prosecuted and were sentenced to prison terms. They allegedly instigated the rape by intentionally and purposely clogging a drain which resulted in flooding in her room, causing her to go to the hotel bar while she waited for the maintenance staff to fix the problem. A fellow employee reportedly spiked her drink when he refilled her glass with ice. Gali awakened during the afternoon on the next day with broken ribs and her entire body bruised.
Many FlyerTalk members believed that the official statement by Starwood Hotels and Resorts was not exactly the wisest use of social media. As a result of learning about this story, some FlyerTalk members vow never to step foot in the United Arab Emirates in the future.
Interestingly — in a completely unrelated story — the chief executive officer of InterContinental Hotels Group criticized the move by Starwood Hotels and Resorts to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates during the month of March of 2013 to learn from and focus on its growth outside of the United States:
“I’m not into PR stunts. We are a global business and have been for a very long time. I have very senior and experienced executives based around the world, and this idea that your local team aren’t competent and you have to be there is a PR stunt. We run local and domestic businesses already. We have over 300 executives in our Shanghai office, most of whom are domestic Chinese, 80 per cent of our customers there are domestic travellers and I go there a lot, I was there about six times last year. It’s what you do. Relocating the head office? It makes me smile.”
What are your thoughts? Is Starwood Hotels and Resorts liable for the alleged rape of Alicia Gali — or is there possibly more to this story? Do you ever intend to visit the United Arab Emirates in the future as a result of reading this story?