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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Tunisians ‘tried to steal Dh15m of Armed Forces’ money’

Pair among seven men on trial over trying to use four forged cheques to withdraw millions belonging to the UAE’s military.

Two Tunisians tried to con the country’s Armed Forces out of more than Dh15 million by trying to cash four forged cheques in local banks, a Dubai court heard on Sunday.

The pair, aged 33 and 37, are among seven on trial related to the case.

At Dubai Criminal Court, the two men denied charges of forgery, use of forged cheques, fraudulently obtaining Dh3.02m and attempting to fraudulently obtain Dh3.4m from the Armed Forces’ bank account. They did not get the chance to withdraw the rest of the Dh15m before being arrested, it is alleged.

Three other defendants - a Bangladeshi and German, both 42, and a 35-year-old Egyptian - are charged with aiding and abetting the Tunisians by providing them with their companies’ bank details with two local banks so the cheques could be withdrawn in their companies’ names in return for between 5 to 10 per cent of the total amount.

The trio are additionally charged with possessing the illegally obtained money despite knowing its source. All three denied the charges against them on Sunday morning.

“I haven’t possessed any amounts in my company’s bank account,” said the German defendant to judges.

The Egyptian told judges that he was introduced to the 37-year-old Tunisian when making a business investment.

“I was offered to become partner in return for Dh700,000 profit. After I did, I was shocked to see that Dh3.7m was deposited in my company’s bank account. I asked him about it and he told me it was deposited by mistake but I had no idea the cheque was altered,” said the Egyptian.

A sixth defendant, also Tunisian, 51, denied a charge of hiding three of the other defendants when they were wanted by authorities.

“I didn’t hide them in my flat, it’s the opposite - I was a guest at their apartment,” said the 51-year-old in court.

A 38-year-old Bangladeshi was also charged with refraining from reporting the crime to authorities after he became aware of it, something he denies.

The incident came to light on January 31, one day after the 33-year-old Tunisian deposited a Dh3.8m into his account.

“The Tunisian deposited a cheque on January 30 via the machine, and as per procedure we sent a copy of the cheque to the local bank where the Armed Forces account is, then they sent us the approval, after which he withdrew Dh200,000 on January 31 and another man withdrew Dh1.15m the same day,” said an Emirati bank manager, 45.

The defendants deposited two more cheques that day but later that same day, the Armed Forces’ bank sent a letter to say that the cheques were all forgeries.

The bank manager said the defendants’ accounts were then immediately suspended.

“One cheque with Dh3.7m was deposited into our bank in an account for the Egyptian defendant on January 31 and it was approved, after which he withdrew Dh450,000 and, when he tried to take one million, it was denied by the ATM as the cash was not available,” said a Jordanian manager at another bank.

He said that the next day they received a letter that the cheque was forged.

Police arrested two of the defendants between January 31 and February 2. Three others were arrested in a flat in Oud Metha, Dubai, on February 8.

Police found Dh168,335 in their possession and ATM receipts.

Another defendant was arrested in Oman on February 11 after fleeing the country and the last was arrested on February 24.

The next hearing is on August 20.