x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Former footballer appeals against conviction in Dh5.5m citizenship scam

A former UAE national team football player argues that he is not guilty of charges he abused his position at the Crown Prince's diwan to charge people for citizenship.

ABU DHABI // A former Emirati international footballer who worked for the Crown Prince's diwan is one of five men who appealed yesterday against their conviction for forging decrees of Emirati citizenship in exchange for millions of dirhams.

The men used copies of old decrees and changed the names to match those of two Pakistani businessmen who paid them Dh5.5 million. They were arrested in a sting operation after the Organised Crime Unit at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Investigation Division was tipped off in June 2010.

MG, the former footballer, was previously cleared of accepting bribes because of the legal technicality that royal court employees are not civil servants, but he was convicted of fraudulently obtaining money.

FS, an Emirati, who worked for the Ministry of Labour; MO and TA, both Sudanese; and a Jordanian, MI, were convicted of bribery and defrauding the two businessmen. They had told the businessmen they could obtain for them decrees of UAE citizenship through their connections with the Royal Family.

The men had previously appealed against their convictions at the Court of Cassation, which sent the case back to the Court of Appeal because no translator had been provided for the businessmen in earlier proceedings.

MG's lawyer said there was no evidence that his client had claimed he could obtain the citizenship decrees. "He is a popular personality. He used to be a football player and then a police officer for 15 years, and then worked at the Royal diwan," the lawyer said.

If other people referred the businessmen to him, that did not mean MG had claimed any money, the lawyer said.

MI argued that the case against him was motivated by a grudge one of the businessmen held against him for having divorced that man's daughter.

MO said the public prosecution had not investigated him properly and jailed him without charges. He also claimed he had been tortured in detention.

TA's lawyer claimed that his client introduced the businessmen to FS and MG and arranged a meeting with them.

"He did not lie about their identities. Moreover, the victims said they only paid the money after they were certain they were getting the citizenship, which is after they took their fingerprints and saw the official decrees," he said. "My client was not there when this happened and he did not have anything to do with the decrees."

Police believe that the ringleader FS took the businessmen to one of the palaces in the capital to take their fingerprints.

The Appeals Court had previously sentenced all the men to one year in prison. MO and TA have already served their sentences. They asked the judge to acquit them or cancel their deportation. The other men still have prison time remaining.

The court's verdict will be delivered on September 28.