x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Primary school teacher in Dh11m cheque fraud told she must stay in jail

Court denies bail to Emirati mother of five daughter, 41, who wrote bounced cheques that totalled millions.

ABU DHABI // An appeals court has denied bail to a teacher convicted of writing bad cheques totalling millions of dirhams who said she herself was a victim of major fraud. FA, a 41-year-old Emirati who worked at a primary school in Abu Dhabi for 18 years, was convicted last autumn by the Court of Misdemeanours of issuing more than Dh11 million in bad cheques. She was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, in addition to a Dh5.5 million fine plus 12 per cent interest.

The mother of five daughters has been in Al Wathba prison for a year, and more cases involving bounced cheques are being filed against her. She asked the court this week to release her on bail until all court cases against her were completed, saying the Public Prosecution was investigating whether she had been defrauded. She told prosecutors she had filled out two books' worth of cheques and given them to a colleague who promised a profitable business proposition but used them to defraud her.

But the presiding judge denied her request, saying the verdicts were binding and could not be ignored simply because an investigation was under way. According to court documents, the cheque issues began while FA, in addition to teaching, ran a business of buying gold and selling it to friends and acquaintances. She claimed she was approached by a colleague, who told her she should to expand her business.

"She told me her brother wanted a partner in the business and he gave me Dh80,000," FA told prosecutors about her colleague. She added that the initial business relationship with her colleague lasted four years. "After that, she told me her husband was married to a rich woman and that he could arrange for a business with the wife's rich family," she said. "But she said that I would need to write them security cheques. I trusted her because she is my friend."

She said she signed two books of cheques, leaving the amounts blank, in February 2009, and used only three of them herself. The colleague's brother told her he would arrange for the money from the family in four months, FA said. Four months later, FA called her friend and her brother, but they did not answer the phone. She then went to their house, she said, but found only her colleague's husband, who told her his wife was in Saudi Arabia and was not planning to come back.

"He gave me her number in Saudi Arabia and I called her. She told me she had issues with her husband and that she would inquire about the cheques," FA told prosecutors. In September last year, she said, she was contacted by police, who told her they received complaints about bounced cheques in her name from Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. One complaint had been filed by the brother's wife. FA contacted the brother, who told her he would sort out the issue himself, she said. "After that, I received several calls from police about issuing bounced cheques to people I had never met or dealt with in my life," she said.

FA presented documents showing that one of the creditors had dropped his claim to a cheque worth more than a million dirhams after he was paid Dh30,000. She suggested she was a victim of fraud, especially because most of those who lodged complaints against her were her colleague's relatives. The case was adjourned until Tuesday.

hhassan@thenational.ae