x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A thumbprint is worth Dh10m

ABU DHABI // A family have been told they are Dh10 million (US$2.7m) richer after fingerprint evidence solved the mystery of who owns a piece of land in Khaladiya, sold in 1971. But police said the family had so far ignored a court summons to claim their fortune, the result of a purchase made by a relative who has been dead for more than two decades. The land was sold 37 years ago for 600 Bahraini dinars, which amounts to about Dh5,845 at current exchange rates, by an Emirati, identified only as JF. He died in 1999.

His family was unaware that he had ever owned the land until recently, when they discovered a contract relating to the sale and realised how much the land would be worth today. They went to court to see if the document was valid and if they still held the title to the property. The children of the man the contract said had purchased the land, identified as AS, were notified that they might have a claim to the land but refused to respond to a court summons, saying they did not believe their father, who died in 1985, had made the purchase. They were apparently unaware that they might have a claim to the property.

The case was complicated by the fact that JF, the seller, signed the contract with a thumb-print that did not appear to match those he made on other documents, such as his passport. To help determine whether the contract was genuine, the police were asked if they could confirm whether the thumbprint actually belonged to the seller. "At first glance the two prints did not appear to match, but we quickly realised that in fact the contract had been signed with a right-hand thumb, while JF had signed all the other documents we had using his left thumb," said Capt Sultan al Tunaiji, head of the fingerprint section at Abu Dhabi Police.

"The family of JF had already taken the documents to a number of private fingerprint experts, who told them there was no match. They were surprised that we were able to tell that the prints were actually from different thumbs - but that did not mean they were from different people." Officers then searched through archives at a number of public institutions until they found another document, tucked away in the files of the municipality's land registry, that JF had signed using his right thumb.

They were then able to compare the thumbprints and confirm that the print on the contract was his - and that he had in fact sold the land in Khaladiya. "We were able to discover details of this case in a short period of time, solve the puzzle and prove who had the ownership rights," Capt Tunaiji said. Police did not disclose the exact location of the land or if anything had been built on the property, which is believed to be worth Dh10m.

The children of AS will again be summoned to court to be told they are, without a doubt, the recipients of a property windfall. @Email:gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae @Emal:hdajani@thenational.ae