x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Customer finds Dh31m deposited in bank account

Dubai court rules there was no fraud in cheque 'wrongly deposited' in a businessman's Citibank account.

DUBAI // It is the Dh31 million case of the bank versus the customer … and so far, the customer is winning.

Citibank claims the huge sum was wrongly deposited in an account belonging to IS, an Emirati businessman. He withdrew Dh4 million before the bank froze the account and took the case to public prosecutors.

IS was charged at Dubai Court of Misdemeanours in June with the illegal seizure of funds, but acquitted a month later.

Now prosecutors are taking the case to appeal. IS, meanwhile, is not only Dh4 million ahead but is suing the bank for the return of the frozen Dh27 million.

The dispute began when IS was involved in a property transaction with a German company in 2009.

Citibank claims that a cheque for Dh31 million deposited at their German branch was forged, and that they found out only after the sale transaction went through and the cash had been credited to IS's account. When he refused to return the Dh4 million he had already withdrawn, they took him to court.

During the trial, the court asked the bank and prosecutors to present proof of fraud. They were unable to do so. 

On July 18, presiding Judge Abdullah Abu Zaid ruled that the charges brought forward by the public prosecution had no grounds, as there was no proof of fraud by IS. 

Judge Abu Zaid said there had been a legitimate banking transaction, IS had withdrawn amounts deposited into his account, and there was no criminal intent.

There was no legal ground for the claim that the cheque was fraudulent, the judge ruled.

"The court cannot take into account claims by Citibank's German branch that a fraudulent cheque has been issued without proof," Judge Abu Zaid said, "especially after it has withdrawn monies from the first party's account and deposited it into the defendant's account."

Prosecutors filed an appeal against the ruling last week.

They asked for a sentence of two years in jail, claiming that IS had illegally seized funds and refused to return them.

The public prosecutor says there was a mistake by Citibank in Germany, which was later rectified, but that IS refused to cooperate and is therefore responsible.

IS's lawyer, Yaqoob Ibrahim Shahin, said a civil claim was being made against Citibank to reimburse his client with the remainder of the amount.

The case will return to court on December 30.