x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

School principal denies 'abusing power'

School teachers and administrators are accused of embezzling money, charges they say are simply a grudge.

ABU DHABI // A school principal and her staff appeared in court again on forgery charges and a Dh100 million claim from the school's owner.

The Al Worood School employees - an Arabic teacher, JQ; a physics teacher, AM; a school administrator, TH; and the principal, YI, lost their jobs and have been free on bail.

They were given a suspended sentence by the Court of First Instance, but both sides appealed the judgment.

The school owner's lawyer argued at the Appeals Court last Wednesday that YI, from Lebanon, used an official stamp to increase the salaries of teachers and for the recruitment of employees.

"They doubled salaries without the knowledge of the money owner," the lawyer said. YI argued that the owner had trusted her and had given her power of attorney in 2003.

She said that if she had wanted to abuse that power, "why wait until now?"

She said in the appeal court, as she did in the court of first instance, that the case was driven by a grudge by the owner's wife, because YI was running the school while the owner received medical treatment in Germany.

She also denied that she had doubled salaries.

"I made about Dh20 million in annual profits for the school after I took over the management. Why would I need to forge documents? How would I have benefited from forging labour documents? I could have used the power of attorney to withdraw large amounts of money and leave," she said in a previous hearing.

The defence lawyer repeated his request that the owner appear in court, and said the defendants had had no criminal intent.

In previous hearings, the notary, KhA, a Palestinian, who was convicted of notarising documents despite knowing they were forged, said he had stamped them without examining them carefully because he was busy training people.

"I always tell my trainees that such documents are 'silly'; excuse me for using that word but they are really insignificant," KhA told the appeal court judges. "So when they handed me those documents, I stamped them without careful examination."

The defence lawyer argued that the labour documents would be meaningful only at the Ministry of Labour, and could not be used for profit.