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Central Bank embezzler still in jail until Dh1.5m is repaid

Ibrahim al Tunaiji has long since finished his prison sentence but his former employer is insisting on full restitution before his release.

DUBAI // Ibrahim al Tunaiji, a former assistant Central Bank treasurer, has long since finished his prison sentence after being convicted of embezzling Dh3.1million (US$844,000). Unfortunately for him, he is still in jail. Al Tunaiji, a father of four has been awaiting release for at least six months. He was due to be freed last year after receiving a one-year reduction of his term for good behaviour and for memorising the Quran.

His former employer is insisting on full restitution before his release, said Major Gen Abdel Hakim Ahmad, the chief of the central jail. "In UAE law, once a person has embezzled public funds, the law states that a full repayment must be made," Major Gen Ahmad said. "We have attempted to settle the dispute, but the bank insisted on full repayment. The matter is in their hands and [al Tunaiji] will have to remain incarcerated."

Al Tunaiji The former assistant manager of the Central Bank's Old Souk branch was found guilty of embezzlement of public funds and concealing stolen property in November 2003. An Omani man, KA, was sentenced to three years in jail followed by deportation in the case for receiving part of the stolen funds. "I have spent more than seven years behind bars and I don't even know where my kids are, what they look like and if I will ever see them again," said al Tunaiji, who is being held in the Dubai Central Jail. "I have been incarcerated here without a light at the end of the tunnel."

Al Tunaiji has paid back some of the stolen money. His bank accounts were seized and he repaid a large sum as well. However, he still must repay the remaining Dh1.5m, as required by statute. Raed Okal, his lawyer, said he has contacted the bank in an attempt to reach a repayment settlement. He added that at least three requests for al Tunaiji's release were declined by the Dubai Advocate General's office and that the reasons given were unclear.

Central Bank authorities have not responded to numerous requests by The National inquiring about a settlement. The Dubai public prosecutors' office has also declined to respond to queries regarding the case. Court documents showed that al Tunaiji said he had been motivated to steal because of his financial status and because he was responsible for a large extended family. He said he has not seen his children since being jailed and that his wife had divorced him, even though he repeatedly refused to sign papers allowing her to do so. The divorce was effected without his knowledge by his wife, who he says has refused to allow his family to contact him.

@Email:amustafa@thenational.ae

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