x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Former insurance chief denies accepting Dh297m bribes

MGH says she was offering clients a consultation service, and that she received a commission for her advice.

ABU DHABI // A former insurance chief at the water and electricity regulator convicted of accepting Dh297 million in bribes offered the public prosecution Dh180 million to settle the court case against her, the appeals court heard yesterday.

MGH is accused of benefiting from her post at ADWEA by awarding business contracts tendered through her private company. She claims the money her private company received in exchange for her awarding the ADWEA contracts was a legitimate form of commission - and was done with the knowledge of her bosses. But prosecutors say the payments were effectively bribes, and that whether her bosses knew of the situation is irrelevant.

Fund-prosecutor Ayman Hanafi said that MGH initially denied that her supervisors knew of the payments. When she was first investigated she was asked if her ADWEA supervisors knew about the activities of her private company, and she replied: "Why should I tell them?"

She said that she was offering clients a consultation service, and that she received a commission for her advice. But when asked for business documents she said the consultations took place only over the phone.

Mr Hanafi claimed she later changed her story to claim that ADWEA gave her permission to start her private company and charge the commissions. She produced a letter backing this claim up, but has been accused of forging the letter.

"To put an end to this - even if her supervisor knew she was accepting commission would that make the bribes legitimate?" Mr Hanafi asked the court.

He also complained that during the two years the case has been heard MGH had not yet served any jail time - nor had she returned any of the money - because she was receiving treatment in a private mental hospital.

"She also tried to reach a settlement with public prosecution by paying them Dh180 million, but prosecution refused," he added.

The defence lawyer replied there was proof that she had spent some time in Al Wathba prison and questioned the legitimacy of the Dh297 million figure.

MGH was convicted by the Criminal Court and ordered to spend three years in jail, repay the Dh297m and pay the same again as a fine, but the two-year-old case has bounced through a number of courts during the appeal process. Previously the Appeals Court upheld the Criminal Court's sentence. It is now hearing the case again after being referred there by the Cassation Court on the grounds that various requests by the defence lawyers were not granted.

The case was adjourned until October 17.

hdajani@thenational.ae