x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Investors blamed for Ponzi fraud

A man and his siblings are appealing against their conviction for swindling 'investors' out of hundreds of millions of dirhams.

ABU DHABI // The man allegedly behind the emirate's largest fraud scheme did not intend to deceive anyone, his lawyer told the Court of Cassation yesterday.

The Ponzi scheme cheated more than 5,200 investors out of hundreds of millions of dirhams.

Ninety-four people were charged, including AAQ, an Emirati.

"It is wrong to invest in money in this way and I see it as a crime, but there is no law criminalising it, so it was put under fraud," said AAQ's lawyer Yousuf Al Sharif. "But it wasn't fraud because he was giving people cheques and whoever wanted to withdraw their money was able to," he said after the hearing.

He argued that AAQ was an ambitious person driven to invest money. Because of his success he became famous during the economic boom in 2003.

Prosecutors, however, say he took money from "investors" but paid them dividends not from investing, but from funds collected from other victims.

"We cannot blame him for what he did, because it was the investors who went after him to put their money," his lawyer said.

Only Dh29million had been handed back out of about Dh350m in assets, including some of his 63 cars.

The appeals court had sentenced AAQ to five years in prison.

hdajani@thenational.ae