ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – A St. Louis native is facing up to a half century in a Middle Eastern prison on weapons charges to which his connection seems to be only a coincidence. Steve Dolan just happens to work for a company that owns a shipping container in which the weapons were discovered.
Friday night, Brian Dolan, Steve’s brother, was watching a soccer game in West St. Louis County. He was just 48 hours removed from being kicked out of the Emirate of Dubai. But Steve faces a fate much worse.
“He could face 50 years in prison,” Brian Dolan said.
Asked if it doesn’t sound a little bit like a movie, he said, “I can tell you from being over there it almost is like a movie.”
The movie for Steve Dolan began eight months ago. He is the vice president for APL Emirates Shipping in Dubai. The Singapore based corporation handles enormous amounts of cargo. That day a container said to be carrying liquid soap was passing through between Turkey and the African nation of Djibouti. It turned out that half the cargo was soap, and the other half was weapons.
“The container was sealed and loaded in Turkey, headed for Djibouti,” Brian Dolan told us. “It was never offloaded in Dubai. It was just switched to another ship.”
So the container had never been opened in Dubai. But the weapons were found in a scan. As the representative of the company whose name was on the side of the container, Steve Dolan received a phone call from police.
“They said we need to talk to you,” Brian said. “It was about 6 in the evening, and he said okay, I’ll come down tomorrow. They said no, now or we’ll come and get you.”
So Dolan, unsure of what was going on, headed to the police station. APL has 200 offices around the world, all handling cargo. He had no paperwork or logs regarding what might have been in that one container, on that one ship. But he was about to face hours of questioning.
“They took his passport so he couldn’t leave. Then the second go round they made him sign a document in Arabic,” Brian Dolan told us. “And it’s without a translator. And it turned out to be a confession. He was smart enough to sign his name, and next to his name he wrote, ‘I have no idea what this says.’”
The initial charge of weapons smuggling carried a potential life sentence in Dubai. The confession was eventually thrown out and the charges reduced to transporting them without a license, still a fifty year term under Dubai law.
With the trail date arriving this month, Brian went to Dubai to be at his brother’s side. There he got an up close look at how the police in Dubai operate. He says he was followed by at least five different men, one of whom he photographed in a coffee shop.
Dolan says he’s not sure if it’s the relationship to his brother or the years he spent as a private security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan that drew the attention, but he says it was unwarranted.