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Fraud trial lawyers point to financial turbulence in client's defence

Defence lawyers in the Sama Dubai fraud trial say statements about recent Dubai World undermine bid to reopen case.

DUBAI // Defence lawyers in the Sama Dubai fraud trial tried to use the fallout from the recent restructuring of Dubai World to make their case to the Appeals Court yesterday that their client should not be tried as a public official. AM, 42, an Emirati and former senior executive at Sama Dubai, was acquitted of charges of breach of duty in July.

Last month the public prosecution asked that he be retried, saying his acquittal came because he had been tried as a private employee. The prosecutor, Abdel Rahman al Memari, told the court that since Sama Dubai was owned by Dubai Holdings - owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE - AM should instead have been tried as a public official. In that case, Mr al Memari said, AM would have been legally required to declare commissions he received, including five apartments valued at Dh2.7 million (US$735,000), and Dh200,000 in cash.

If accepted, that claim would have significant repercussions for a number of the fraud cases currently working their way through the Dubai courts, as many of the defendants could similarly be considered to be public officials. However, in court yesterday, the defence pointed out that since Dubai World's restructuring was announced last month, officials had stressed the arm's-length relationship between the Government and some of the emirate's biggest companies.

For the defence, Ali al Shamsi reminded the three Appeals Court judges of government statements saying it would not guarantee the debts of a conglomerate owned by Sheikh Mohammed. "The recent press statements issued by government officials about the company owned by the Ruler of Dubai are a clear indication that these companies are not government-owned entities," said Mr al Shamsi. He referred to a television interview given by Abdel Rahman al Saleh, the director general of the Dubai Department of Finance, in which Mr al Saleh said: "Creditors need to take part of the responsibility for their decision to lend to the companies. They think Dubai World is part of the Government, which is not correct."

Mr al Shamsi told the court that Dubai Holdings, like Dubai World, was not owned by the Dubai Government. Its subsidiaries were registered as limited liability companies, he said, meaning that AM could not be charged as a public official. Meanwhile, Saeed al Ghailani, who is representing a Syrian Damac property development manager, AH, 32, in the same trial, asked the court to subpoena Hussein Sajwani, the owner and chief executive of Damac Properties, to be cross-examined.

AH is accused of being complicit in the alleged bribes of the Sama Dubai employees as well as accepting Dh650,000. Mr al Ghailani said his client acted according to the instructions of the owner of the company, Mr Sajwani. The trial was adjourned until January. @Email:amustafa@thenational.ae

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