x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi school demands Dh100 million in damages

A school in the emirate yesterday demanded damages from its former head teacher, three staff and a notary public who they say forged documents to recruit and promote employees.

ABU DHABI // A school yesterday demanded Dh100 million in damages from its former head teacher, three staff and a notary public who they say forged documents to recruit and promote employees. All five were convicted of forgery by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance last month and given three-month suspended jail terms.

The Al Worood School employees - an Arabic teacher, JQ, a Palestinian; a physics teacher, AM; a school administrator, TH, from Egypt; and the head teacher, YI, from Lebanon - lost their jobs and have been free on bail.

They appeared yesterday before the Court of Appeal and asked for acquittal on the ground that there had been no criminal intent. The school made a counter-claim asking the court to uphold the first verdict, and to award Dh100m in damages.

The school's representatives said the damages had been incurred by the recruitment and promotion of employees using forged documents, but did not explain how.

The staff said the school's claim was vindictive, and had been filed by a member of the school-owner's family out of personal spite. They asked for the owner to give evidence.

YI said the family member had a grudge against her because she was operating the school while the owner received medical treatment in Germany.

YI had power of attorney during the owner's absence, and was convicted of forging labour documents that falsely stated people were employed by the school, thus helping them to obtain residency permits.

The notary, KhA, a Palestinian, was convicted of notarising the documents despite knowing they were forged. He said he stamped them without examining them carefully because he was busy training people.

"I always tell my trainees that such documents are 'silly'; excuse me for using that word but they are really insignificant," KhA told the appeal court judges. "So when they handed me those documents, I stamped them without careful examination."

The defence lawyer argued that the labour documents would be meaningful only at the Ministry of Labour, and could not be used for profit.

YI pointed out that the power of attorney gave her the right to withdraw money from school accounts, but she had not.

"I had been working for the school for 23 years," she told the court. "I made about Dh20 million in annual profits for the school after I took over the management. Why would I need to forge documents? How would I have benefited from forging labour documents? I could have used the power of attorney to withdraw large amounts of money and leave."

The judges will issue a verdict on May 4.

hhassan@thenational.ae