x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Former Deyaar chief appears before Dubai Criminal Court

Zack Shahin, who fled the country following his release on bail, tells the court he had been unable to meet his lawyers.

DUBAI // Zack Shahin, the former Deyaar chief executive who fled the country while on bail for fraud charges worth more than Dh300 million, told the Criminal Court today he had been unable to meet his lawyers.

"I haven't been able to get in touch with my lawyer here and I don't know where he is," Mr Shahin told Judge Hamad Abdul Latif. "I would like another date for the hearing to prepare my defence and [consult] with a lawyer."

Mr Shahin, who was appearing for the first time since he was arrested by Yemeni authorities and returned to the UAE, said he was being detained in a UAE state facility, but was unsure exactly where. He has not been able to meet his US legal team, but has managed to speak to them on the telephone.

James Jatras, a member of Mr Shahin's US legal team, told the court that he had been assigned by Mr Shahin to defend him and arrange his defence with a local lawyer.

"Do you have a licence or a permit to stand before a UAE court," the judge asked Mr Jatras. "No, but I have met with the Chief Justice of the Dubai Criminal Court to get a permission to meet with Zack in order to know his needs and desire for the defence," said Mr Jatras.

Mr Jatras told The National that Mr Shahin had asked to be moved back to the central prison. "He also asked me to contact his family," he said, adding that he would meet with the prosecutor Hamad Al Kahlafi to request a meeting with Mr Shahin.

However, he said that his hopes of his request being granted were "lower than they were".

Mr Shahin was in court on charges of taking bribes worth Dh20 million in return for approving bids for the Thermo company, where he was responsible for managing contract deals.

The 45-year-old American is accused of deliberately approving bids that were higher in price than others in return for the bribes during transactions that took place between 2004 and 2007.

His Argentinian alleged accomplice KM, 61, was charged with taking Dh10 million in bribes along with two others - the Canadian FL and Briton AS who are not in custody. The Argentinian is also facing a charge of forging bills and using them.

The Canadian was the project manager at Thermo and the Briton was the director general. They are charged of embezzling Dh500,000 each from the company.

Court sources said that Mr Shahin is being held by National Security.

The court ordered him to remain in custody and scheduled the next hearing for October 4.