x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Man denies trying to defraud Central Bank

An Emirati businessman has been charged in the latest of a series of attempts to withdraw a colossal amount of money from the UAE Central Bank.

ABU DHABI // An Emirati businessman has been charged in the latest of a series of attempts to withdraw a colossal amount of money from the UAE Central Bank, the Criminal Court heard yesterday. HD, of Iranian descent, appeared before the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance yesterday accused of attempting to withdraw ?20 billion (Dh95bn) from the Corniche branch of the Central Bank. He owns six different businesses in the UAE and Iran, according to his lawyer.

Prosecutors said this was the seventh attempt of its kind to withdraw money from the bank. All attempts - the first of which occurred in 2007 - have involved an Iranian man identified as Farzeen Ali. In all previous cases, according to court records, Ali contacted people through a mutual friend and told them he had funds in the bank that he needed them to withdraw. He then provided them with a faxed copy of documents supposedly granting power of attorney to the holder. All the previous cases, unlike yesterday's, also involved one person who claimed their role was merely to act as a translator.

HD said he was approached by a friend in Iran, identified as Hussain Verior, who asked him about investment opportunities in the country. Verior is outside the country, the court heard. HD told Verior there were "abundant opportunities", the court heard, and Verior told him that he had access to money but that it was held in the Central Bank. Verior added that the money belonged to Farzeen Ali, who would provide HD with power of attorney to enable him to withdraw the cash.

The Central Bank does not hold private funds and deals only with other banks. HD went to the Central Bank, along Abu Dhabi's Corniche, and what happened there is disputed. HD told the court he only wanted to inquire whether the funds were genuine. He carried copies of documents that showed the money was transferred in 200 boxes from Deutsche Bank in Germany on October 2, 2009. Prosecutors say he attempted to withdraw the money.

An employee from the Central Bank appeared before the court yesterday to testify. During cross-examination by the judge, the witness finally said: "To my knowledge, the defendant did not know the documents were forged." Prosecutors, in previous hearings, said the similarities in the cases were an indication that all suspects were part of a group or targets of the same scam. hhassan@thenational.ae