x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Corruption unit acted illegally during investigation, court told

The defence in a trial involving bribery allegations claims the unit lacked authority to see Deyaar accounts.

DUBAI // The unit in charge of the corruption inquiries in Dubai acted illegally during its investigations into bribery allegations against a former board member of one of the emirate's biggest developers, a court heard yesterday. Habib al Mulla, a defence lawyer, told the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance that the Dubai Government's financial audit department had no legal jurisdiction to investigate the accounts of Deyaar Development, where his client, SA, held a board position.

Furthermore, he said Mohammed Hussein, the department's lead investigator, had not carried out a complete and thorough investigation in a bid to uncover the truth. "The report is incomplete, your honour," Mr al Mulla said. "The investigators did not try to get the truth but just considered that a crime has been committed and pushed to incriminate my client." SA, formerly a Deyaar board member and chief executive of Dubai Islamic Bank, is charged with accepting a Dh11.75 million (US$3.2m) bribe and various illegal commissions in return for arranging a property sale.

His lawyer's claims that investigators had acted unlawfully formed part of his closing argument to the court yesterday. Mr al Mulla, who successfully defended Sheikh Issa bin Zayed against abuse allegations in the high-profile case that ended last month, told the court yesterday that Deyaar had been audited last summer, making it illegal for the case investigators to examine the company's books. "In July 2009 the company became an audited company, [so] the financial audit department have no jurisdiction as per the law number seven of the department," he said.

He added that the ensuing searches, interrogations and arrests should also be considered illegal because the whole case was built on "false pretences and unlawful actions". Investigators did not respond to the claims made in court yesterday. Dubai Public Prosecution charged SA, a 40-year-old Emirati, in April last year with requesting and accepting a bribe in return for facilitating the sale of a property to another Emirati, IJ.

Both were charged with dealing in unlawful commissions worth Dh16m. IJ absconded and is being tried in absentia. SA's arrest and trial was the sixth in a wide-ranging corruption investigation led by the financial-audit department that involves some of Dubai's biggest companies. So far, 13 cases involving an estimated Dh3.7 billion in embezzlement, bribes and unlawful commissions have come before the courts.

In November, CT, a senior executive at Istithmar World, the investment arm of Dubai World, was sentenced in absentia to five years in jail after he was convicted of embezzling $1.3m (Dh4.8m). In January, Abdelsalam al Marri, the former chief executive of the Sama Dubai Lagoons Project, was jailed for three years and ordered to pay Dh5.8m in fines and reimbursements after the Appeals Court overturned his previous acquittal on bribery charges.

A verdict in SA's case is expected on March 14. amustafa@thenational.ae