x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Audits to shed light on scale of fraud case

Prosecutors are awaiting financial audits from unspecified offices in the UAE and abroad to establish the scale of a fraud allegedly committed.

DUBAI // Prosecutors are awaiting financial audits from unspecified offices in the UAE and abroad to establish the scale of a fraud allegedly committed by two of the suspects in the Dubai corruption inquiry, officials revealed yesterday. Investigators expect the reports will shed more light on the activities of Deyaar's former chief executive, Zack Shahin, and Plantation Holdings and its managing director, Arthur Fitzwilliam. Khalid Amin al Zarouni, assistant chief prosecutor for Bur Dubai First District, which is handling both cases, said: "The Shahin investigation has led to the arrest of several individuals, as has the Fitzwilliam investigation, but we cannot disclose any further details of ongoing investigations as any disclosure would hamper any progress." Shahin, who is being held at Al Aweer jail, will begin his seventh month in custody in October and a hearing for extending his detention is expected within a week. Fitzwilliam was reported to be under police guard at a local hospital. By law, a public prosecutor can detain an accused person for 21 days, after which the accused must be brought before a judge who would have to sanction any further detention up to 30 days. The accused could then petition the judge to be released on bail. "The judge can release an accused person," Mr Zarouni said. "It is up to the prosecution to present the judge with compelling evidence and valid reasons to warrant an extension of the detention order." Mr Zarouni is one of the investigators working for the Dubai Public Prosecution who were appointed to handle specific cases in the corruption inquiry, which has affected several of Dubai's major financial institutions. The team was assigned to the fraud cases within some government-backed companies on the order of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Because of the sensitive nature of the investigations, Dubai Police receive orders to arrest a suspect only after investigations by the Public Prosecution are completed. Shahin was arrested in March this year on provisional charges of betrayal of trust. Despite declaring his innocence, his detention led to several other arrests and a wider probe that has included Dubai Islamic Bank Group. Deyaar is the bank's real estate affiliate. In April, Charbel Boutros, a Lebanese sales executive at Deyaar and Ganesan Krishna, an Indian national who runs an advertising firm, were arrested. In June, Rafatul Islam Usmani, former vice president of finance and strategy at DIB Group, was also arrested on bribery charges. Dubai Islamic Bank this month seized land assets in Dubailand allocated to Plantation Holdings. Fitzwilliam, the owner of Plantation Polo and Equestrian Resort, is one of six businessmen being held by Dubai Police as part of the wide-ranging corruption investigations. The bank had earlier declined to comment on what led it to seize the land. Plantation issued a statement claiming the takeover was illegal. Deyaar was reported to be in negotiations with DIB Group to take over the Plantation project. Istithmar World, an investment company owned by the Dubai Government, has suspended two of its most senior executives after they were detained by police in the inquiry. Adel al Shirawi, who was vice chairman of Istithmar World, and Feras Kalthoum, the company's chief financial officer, were suspended "in light of the ongoing investigations in relation to activities during their previous positions at another company", Istithmar said in a written statement. Both executives formerly worked at Tamweel, the UAE's second-largest home finance company. Mr Shirawi was Tamweel's chief executive and Mr Kalthoum was head of finance. DIB owns a 20 per cent stake and is the largest shareholder in Deyaar. Tamweel's deputy chief executive, Abdullah Nasser Abdullah, was also detained as part of the fraud investigation. hbathish@thenational.ae