x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Burj Al Arab chef and butcher accused of taking bribes to buy subpar food

Food service workers at the iconic Dubai hotel are accused of taking bribes from distributors.

DUBAI // The head chef and the butcher at the Burj Al Arab hotel took kickbacks of nearly Dh900,000 in return for buying poor-quality food at inflated prices from four suppliers, a court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors say the chef FR, a 56-year-old Indian, was paid Dh837,246 by the four fruit, vegetable, fish and meat wholesalers between April 2008 and March 2010. The butcher, AM, a 38-year-old Indian, took Dh40,000 to allow substandard fish to be served in the hotel restaurants, the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance was told.

Prosecutors say that the four companies made monthly payments to FR of between Dh1,000 and Dh15,000.

In a confession presented to the court, FR said that shortly after he was promoted to head chef he was approached by two other kitchen staff, a chef from Italy and an Austrian pastry-maker. They told him he should purchase food from only the four suppliers, regardless of the price, for a fee.

The Italian and the Austrian have since been deported.

Prosecutors also told the court that according to the Burj Al Arab's food-quality standards, only fresh or live seafood was to be accepted. AM confessed that after taking payments he accepted seafood that was neither.

The Dubai Government's financial audit department realised in 2010 that there were irregularities in transactions at the hotel kitchen, the court was told.

"We called in the head chef and the butcher and got detailed confessions from them on how much was paid by whom, and we took legal action," said the head investigator, Younis Ahmed.

Because the hotel is owned by the Dubai Government, the two men have been charged as public officials, which means that they face tougher sentences if they are convicted.

The case was adjourned until February 12.