x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Central Bank fraud case draws 10-year sentence

Iranian figure convicted in absentia for masterminding plots to try to withdraw billions; others get terms ranging from three to five years.


ABU DHABI // The mastermind of two attempts to fraudulently withdraw large amounts of money from the UAE Central Bank was sentenced yesterday in absentia to a total of 10 years in prison.

The man, who is from Iran and is identified as Farzeen Ali, has not been arrested and his whereabouts are unknown.

In one of the cases, Chief Justice Abdulhafiz Zidan sentenced an Emirati businessman to three years in prison for attempting to withdraw 20 billion euros (Dh95bn) from the Corniche office of the Central Bank.

In the other case, which involved an attempt to withdraw Dh14.4bn from the Central Bank, IK, an Iranian, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by deportation. In addition, NA, a naturalised American of Iranian descent, was sentenced to three years in prison. NA was convicted of defrauding the bank and forgery.

The verdicts were handed down yesterday by Chief Justice Zidan, who recently took over the cases after the previous panel stepped down amid “untruthful” media reports.

Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Baseer and two colleagues were to announce a verdict in one of the cases on November 22. Instead, the chief justice said the case had been compromised after two local newspapers published articles on September 28 that said the judges had issued an acquittal.

The two reporters who were involved in writing the stories were initially referred to the Public Prosecution and accused of maliciously intending to influence the decision of the judges.

The two cases are among seven attempts to fraudulently withdraw money from the bank. All attempts – the first of which occurred in 2007 – have involved Farzeen Ali.

In the previous attempts, according to court records, Ali contacted people through a mutual friend and told them he had funds in the bank that he needed them to withdraw. He then provided them with a copy of documents that granted power of attorney to the holder.

Defendants in all of the cases claimed they were victims of fraud themselves, saying they went to the bank solely to inquire if the documents were genuine. Prosecutors, however, accused them of going to the bank in an attempt to defraud the bank. Prosecutors told the court the scheme targeted the country’s economic and banking system.

All the cases, except the one involving the Emirati businessman, involved one person who said his role was merely to act as a translator.

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