x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Key fraud witness finally in court

Mohammed Mustafa Hussein, the star prosecution witness in a series of fraud trials, finally has his day in court.

DUBAI // It has been a long time in coming, but yesterday Mohammed Mustafa Hussein, the star prosecution witness in a series of fraud trials, finally had his day in court. Mr Hussein, the director of the Financial Audit Department, the body charged with investigating claims of fraud in some of the emirate's biggest companies, had been summoned to appear numerous times throughout the summer, but until now he had failed to do so.

Last week, his serial absence earnt him the wrath of the court - and a Dh1,000 fine - and in a hearing on Sunday it emerged that the wrong person, an employee of Mr Hussein's department with a similar name, had mistakenly been summoned to appear. But yesterday, in the Dubai Criminal Courts, there he finally was, answering questions about the Dh56.6 million (US$15m) embezzlement and bribery case against the former head of the developer Deyaar and two other men.

When it came, Mr Hussein's testimony was mostly uneventful. His answers to more than 50 questions from the presiding judge, El Saeed Bargouth, were simple reiterations of findings previously presented to the Public Prosecutors' Office. He laid out the basics of the case, uncovered in an inquiry commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The defendants are ZS, Deyaar's American former chief executive; JD, an Indian businessman; and MK, an Emirati former Minister of Finance and Industry, as well as a former head of Deyaar.

ZS is charged with receiving bribes of six million Deyaar shares, 380,000 Tamweel shares, 145,000 Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) shares and Dh17.9m from MK to allow him to take possession of money belonging to Deyaar and DIB. MK is accused of using his position as Minister of Finance and Industry to illegally facilitate payments from Deyaar to ZS. He is free on bail and JD has absconded, but ZS is still in custody because of another corruption case.

The full details, however, will not emerge until November 10, when Mr Hussein was ordered yesterday to reappear for cross-examination. amustafa@thenational.ae