x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Court hears from employees in betrayal of trust case

Witnesses say office staff co-operated with plaintiff during visits, in minister's court case which will end early in the new year.

DUBAI // Lawyers for a former minister of state charged with betrayal of trust and taking money and property belonging to his late business partner will make their closing arguments on Jan 12. The former minister of state was accused by the Lebanese man's sister, MJ, of bullying her into handing over her late brother's company in collusion with the company's manager, SH, and the company accountant, according to evidence presented to the court during the trial. The minister's son is charged with criminal complicity.

The court has been told that MJ said SH denied her access to the company premises, told employees not to co-operate with her, and even stopped paying employees' salaries at the company's overseas branches as a way of forcing her hand. At a hearing yesterday, the Dubai Misdemeanours Court heard the testimony of two defence witnesses, company employees who were called to testify by SH's lawyer. Both witnesses denied MJ's claims, and said SH always instructed employees to co-operate with her. They said that after MJ's brother fell ill, SH gave all employees the option of either continuing working for the company or to go and work for MJ. One of the witnesses said as far as she knew from the company documents she had seen, the former minister owned 51 per cent of the company.

Sameer Jaafar, one of the lawyers for the former minister, said the testimony of the two witnesses raised doubts over MJ's claims. "The employees who left to work for MJ even took information from their computers with them," Mr Jaafar said. After her brother's death in 2005, MJ signed a settlement agreement with the former minister handing total control of the company's UAE operations and projects to him in exchange for retaining the company's overseas operations and projects.

She was prompted to file a civil suit against the former minister three years later after discovering a signed document in her late brother's home safe, dated 1998, which showed the former minister was a salaried employee with no ownership stake in the company. MJ said the document showed that the former minister was paid Dh600,000 (US$163,350) annually for affixing his signature to the company's trade licence as her brother's local partner.

hbathish@thenational.ae