Le Méridien Rape Victim Breaks Silence, Sues Hotel; Starwood “Deeply Sorry”

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?

Comments (Showing 11 of 11)

  • SPLP007 at 8:37am May 14, 2013

    Went 15 years ago — never went back –never will and just think the U.A.E. is best of the Arab world –I was in the transit lounge in SAUDI ARABIA had bought scotch in duty free in H.K. BOTTLE NEVER OPENED — “IN THE LOUNGE” the officials required me to to open my carry on — took the bottle and told me to follow– opened it and poured it down the sink

  • callum9999 at 11:43am May 14, 2013

    No offence intended, but are people really meant to care about you losing a bottle of scotch when this woman has been raped and then locked up because she was raped?

    And as to the flyertalk members vowing not to enter the UAE because of this – would they have gone there anyway? It’s pretty well known that the UAE is a rather intolerant country with regards to things like this – regardless of it being on of the most liberal Muslim countries out there.

  • AlohaDaveKennedy at 12:26pm May 14, 2013

    Another country makes The Aruba List.

  • travis bickle at 12:29pm May 14, 2013

    This story is typical for the abominably backwards Middle East. I have many Arabic friends who are genuinely kind and hospitable, but their nations enshrine these barbaric standards in their legal codes. Let the West pull out completely from those nations, let those nations rot. The meaning of SHARI’A is “way” or “path”. Those nations have chosen their way, let them exult in it — alone.

  • JackE at 12:57pm May 14, 2013

    I agree we should let them wallow in their own mess.

    The best way we can help is grass roots. Use as little gasoline as you can. Buy hybrid cars. Drill, baby, drill in Alaska and the rest of the U.S. so there’s less need to buy Sharian oil.

  • FAA1996 at 3:50pm May 14, 2013

    UAE was on my list of places to visit, but not after reading this. Deplorable.

  • C-Kay at 4:46pm May 14, 2013

    Dubai was on my list some time ago. I have read too many stories about tourists/expats getting into trouble for a faux-pas. Now I read about Ms. Gali’s ordeal, I am not surprised at all. Women have no rights there and as a woman I don’t intend to visit this country at all. Not even on transit.

  • uwr at 6:39pm May 14, 2013

    This is deplorable and shows the backwardness of the UAE. I am wary of traveling there again, and I think that Starwood is probably partly responsible.

    As far as SPLP007, Saudi Arabian law allows for capital punishment for alcohol and drug violations. I don’t agree with it, but you clearly broke the law and got away nearly scot-free. You should be thankful. If you brought marijuana from the Netherlands (legal) to Seattle (legal) via Dulles (illegal), you could be prosecuted in Virginia. Similar situation here. You brought alcohol from HKG (legal) to Saudi Arabia (illegal). Even though you were in transit, you could have been prosecuted. Obey local laws on controlled substances. Don’t expect the locality to respect the laws where you live.

  • corruptcanadian at 6:42pm May 14, 2013

    I agree with above posts. I will never fly on an airline or give money that supports unequal rights. Dubai is a facade that will whither away. It kind of reminds me of LAS. Cheap and phony. I will not even transit through there even if it is the cheapest flight. Deplorable is an understatement.

  • busker at 9:22pm May 14, 2013

    >>Do you ever intend to visit the United Arab Emirates in the future?<<
    Absolutely NOT!
    That decision was made for other reasons and independent of the unfortunate incident and Ms Gali’s ordeal.
    Last month QANTAS partnered with Emirate.
    Now most QF flights from Australia to Europe are on EK metal via Dubai.
    I have no desire whatsoever to set my feet in UAE.
    QF, having ‘divorced’ British Airways and the previous very close partnership between QF and BA, could cost QF/EK a good deal of business on the Australia to Europe routes. Time will tell.
    For me – well, looks like my very long standing QF FF membership is going to fade somewhat.
    Next week I will be seated on BA on one of my regular (previous QF) flights from Queensland to Europe.
    Cheers.

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