x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Al Boom gets 923-year sentence for investment fraud

He breached the trust of more than 3,700 investors, embezzling almost Dh1bn and spending their money on luxury items for himself and others, prosecutors say.

DUBAI // The Emirati property magnate Abed al Boom was convicted yesterday of 3,695 charges of fraud and sentenced to 923 years and nine months in prison  – three months for each offence.

Al Boom was not present at the special tribunal court hearing when it issued its verdict. He was found guilty of breaching the trust of 3,706 investors and embezzling Dh960 million of their money.

Judge El Saeed Bargouth acquitted him of 11 further charges of fraud. Al Boom’s five co-accused, who included his brother and two women, were cleared of all charges.

Despite the lengthy prison sentence, al Boom may serve only 10 years in jail, the maximum under the UAE penal code when combined sentences add up to 20 years or more.

Al Boom spent investors’ money on parties, boats and luxury cars. Only one per cent of the stolen money was recovered and seized by authorities.

A member of al Boom’s defence team said yesterday they were waiting to read the judgment sheet before filing an appeal.

His defence had asked the court to dismiss the charges because they violated a decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, creating a committee to liquidate al Boom’s assets and collect on behalf of third parties, and stopping all civil and criminal proceedings against him.

Judge Bargouth dismissed that argument after prosecutors proved to the court that they had charged al Boom two months before the decree was issued on August 4, 2009.

“We have issued our charge sheet from June 4 … two months before the decree,” a prosecutor told the court.

Al Boom had earlier been sentenced to up to three years in jail in four separate cases of bounced cheques, but the Dubai Court of Appeal overturned those sentences last month and referred all the cases to the liquidation committee appointed by Sheikh Mohammed.

Prosecutor Younis al Baloushi told the court al Boom and his accomplices had “acted like animals” after they cheated the investors of their savings.

He created a bogus property investment portfolio, took clients’ money, then doled out small payments to the investors so they would think their funds were generating a return.

“Your honour, how can a man who in 2002 owned only one car that was worth less than Dh30,000 own 53 cars a few years later and become a socialite?” Mr al Baloushi said.

Al Boom’s charge sheet alone comprises about 1,500 pages. Additional documentation for the case is stored in 65 boxes, each containing about 500 pages, a total of more than 32,500 pages of depositions and evidence.

The Chief Justice of the Dubai Criminal Court, Judge Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, ordered the trial to be heard by a special tribunal because of the sheer size of the case.

Al Boom has two weeks to appeal. Any challenge would be heard by the Dubai Misdemeanours Court of Appeal.