x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Court orders Barazi to give particulars of his income

Former DIFC executive accused of fraudulently awarding $4.8 million of bonuses.

A judge yesterday ordered Bisher Barazi, the former Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) executive accused of fraudulently awarding US$4.8 million (Dh17.63m) of bonuses to himself and other officials, to reveal information about his sources of income and the recent sale of his home in Dubai. Lawyers for DIFC Investments, the DIFC financial arm Mr Barazi headed until late last year, told the court they suspected he may be selling assets and preparing to leave the country.

Although he is subject to a travel ban, which prevents him from leaving the UAE, Mr Barazi has sent his immediate family home to Syria, sold his villa in the Lakes and asked to have travel restrictions removed, a lawyer for DIFC Investments told a DIFC Courts judge yesterday, adding that she believed the conduct to be "evasive". "He can't leave Dubai because he is under a travel ban," the lawyer said, asking the court for more information about the whereabouts and value of his assets. "His family have already left and are living in Syria and he asked us, the defendant, to lift this travel ban so he can litigate this case from his home in Syria."

Mr Barazi also did not inform the court of his change of address nor give the date and price of the house sale, the lawyer said. A court official said Mr Barazi was registered as living in an apartment at a hotel in the Dubai Marina. But Imran Shafiq, a lawyer at Bin Shabib & Associates acting for Mr Barazi, told the court the request for information about his client's assets was "a fishing expedition" that was "draconian in nature".

Mr Barazi's lawyers declined to comment after the proceedings, saying a formal response would be filed by August 1. The hearing was the first following allegations earlier this month by DIFC Investments against Mr Barazi, accusing him of giving himself an unauthorised bonus of $1.2m in 2008. Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, the former governor of the financial free zone, was allegedly given $3.3m and another $300,000 allegedly went to a third executive.

The bonuses were justified by $60m in "realised gains" in 2007, a year when DIFC Investments' accounts show it lost about $80m, according to the allegations outlined in a counterclaim to a suit brought against DIFC Investments by Mr Barazi. He had sought Dh1.78m in unpaid salary, benefits and damages from his former employer. DIFC Investments has hired KPMG, a global accounting company, to complete a forensic audit of the firm. Several top executives have left in recent months as the DIFC crafts a new strategy.

Sir Anthony Colman, the Deputy Chief Justice, asked Mr Barazi's lawyers to provide proof that he owned the villa in the Lakes, the date of the property's sale, the amounts he received and other sources of income in the UAE by the end of next week. The judge denied a request by DIFC Investments to force Mr Barazi to post Dh500,000 as security for court costs. afitch@thenational.ae