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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Church minister caught up in Dh100,000 gold scam cleared after 16-month Dubai ordeal

Briton who does charity work in Africa and friends found not guilty of beating, locking up and stealing from a Ugandan man they later realised was a con artist.

Edward Adeagbo, 52, who does philanthropic work in Africa, said that he and his four co-accused friends were the victims of a Ugandan con artist who took their money in a gold scam. Courtesy Edward Adeagbo
Edward Adeagbo, 52, who does philanthropic work in Africa, said that he and his four co-accused friends were the victims of a Ugandan con artist who took their money in a gold scam. Courtesy Edward Adeagbo

A British church minister who was accused of locking up a man in an office and stealing more than Dh100,000 from him has been found not guilty and can now go home after a 16-month ordeal in Dubai.

Edward Adeagbo, 52, who does philanthropic work in Africa, said that he and his four co-accused friends were actually the victims of a Ugandan con artist who took their money in a gold scam.

The minister and his four British friends, aged 37, 41, 45 and 48, were all found not guilty of forceful theft and confinement. Three of them had denied the charges at Dubai Criminal Court last November, while the other two were not present to enter a plea.

The Ugandan had alleged that on April 9 last year the minister and his friends had assaulted him at his friend’s office in Business Bay, snatched his phone away then pushed him and dragged him to a meeting room next door.

He said the men brought the safe from his hotel room and threatened him with broken glass to the neck to give them the passcode. The Ugandan said he relented and the men took Dh100,000, 9,000 euros and his passport.

It was not revealed the nature of the relationship between the five men and the Ugandan but Emirati defence lawyer Maasouma Al Sayyegh told court it was a business deal in which the men were buying gold from the Ugandan and he conned them.

“He uses the same amount of gold to con as many people as he can,” she told judges.

After being acquitted, Mr Adeagbo, who went bankrupt in the UK while he was in limbo in Dubai, told The National that he was a victim of crime himself.

“I have been doing philanthropic work in Africa for the past 20 years, during which I was raising money through my church — Precious Stones Christian Centre in Leyton, London — and succeeded in helping many and sponsoring students,” he said.

In recent years he said he was advised to deal in raw gold and make some profit to fund his activities.

“I did so with the help of my friends, who provided the cash to buy the gold. It was successful and the profit was used to pay university fees for some students in Uganda,” he said, until they met the Ugandan man in this case, whom they discovered only after handing him money that he had been in the media in his own country over several gold scams.

“We came to Dubai after being told by the Ugandan that the gold is to arrive in April, so we came, then when he started stalling and alleging that the gold was seized by Ethiopian authorities on its way to Dubai, we began to look for information and discovered we were victims of a scam,” said Mr Adeagbo.

“When I sat with him in the office, we made a voice recording of the whole meeting which proves we were victims, and in the recording — which the court wouldn’t listen to — the man admitted the scam.

“He even apologised to me, saying that had he known I was a pastor helping his people, he wouldn’t have done this to me and my friends.”

Mr Adeagbo’s friend, a consultant at a financial company in the UK, missed the birth of his first baby while on bail in Dubai and said that they struggled to survive while stranded. “We had to live off the money sent by our families and friends,” said the 37-year-old friend.

All five men were found not guilty of the charges against them on Thursday but no charges were brought against the Ugandan.