x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Central Bank case could hinge on use of 'dodgy'

A bank official testifying about an Emirati businessman accused of attempting to withdraw Dh10.1bn from the UAE Central Bank says prosecutors have misquoted her.

Abu Dhabi // A bank official testifying in court yesterday about an Emirati businessman accused of attempting to withdraw Dh10.1bn from the UAE Central Bank said prosecutors misquoted her in their charges. 

HD, an Emirati businessman of Iranian descent, first appeared before Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance in July. He said he was approached by a friend in Iran who asked him about investment opportunities in the UAE. HD told his friend there were "abundant opportunities", the court heard. His friend told him that he had access to money but that it was held in the Central Bank and belonged to a man named Farzeen Ali, who would provide HD with a power of attorney to enable him to withdraw the cash through Union National Bank (UNB).

The Central Bank does not hold private funds and deals only with other banks. 

HD, who is being held in jail, told the court he wanted only to inquire whether the funds were genuine. He had copies of documents showing that €2 billion (Dh10.1bn) had been transferred - in 200 boxes - to the UAE Central Bank from Deutsche Bank in Germany on October 2, 2009. Prosecutors, however, say he attempted to withdraw the money.

Nadin Sattam, an American citizen who works for UNB, testified yesterday about a telephone call she received from HD. Ms Sattam said H D went to a UNB office on a day she was not working and presented the documents to staff members. He told them he had power of attorney, as well as a document that required UNB to request the money from the Central Bank. Staffers told him to return the following day so that bank administrators would have time to verify the authenticity of the documents.

Mrs Sattam said she spoke to H D the next day on the phone. She said he seemed "ignorant" of bank procedures and did not mention anything about withdrawing money. When the judge read her testimony to public prosecutors she said she was misquoted. 

In the testimony, prosecutors quoted her as saying: "I suspected the documents were dodgy". 

"I object to the word 'dodgy'; I never said that," Mrs Sattam told the court. "I am not in the position to say whether they were dodgy or not; I am not an expert in documents and I am not a qualified translator. He asked me about the requirements to legally obtain such funds from the Central Bank. He did not ask me about how to withdraw the money."

Prosecutors said this was the seventh such attempt to withdraw money from the bank, and that all of the attempts - the first in 2007 - have involved an Iranian man identified as Farzeen Ali. hhassan@thenational.ae