x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Witness absent in Dh14.4bn Central Bank fraud case

Witness unable to appear in court case alleging Dh14.4bn attempt to withdraw Dh14.4 billion from the Central Bank.

ABU DHABI // A fraud case involving an alleged attempt to withdraw Dh14.4 billion from the Central Bank has been adjourned again because a witness could not appear.

Two Central Bank employees were due to present their testimony on Tuesday but only one attended. The other, Ahmed Ismat, purportedly saw the defendants when they came to the bank with documents. Mr Ismat was said to be outside the country and was due to return next week.

Prosecutors insisted in a previous hearing on hearing the testimony of the witnesses, who they claimed would present new facts.

One witness who did not see the defendants was tasked with assessing the risk of the presented documents and testified they were “dangerous”. He also said the attempt to withdraw the money would have harmed the national banking system.

“Had that attempt succeeded, it would have harmed the country’s reputation,” the witness said. “When such people get arrested and such documents are prevented from circulation, that would improve the reputation of the country and stabilise the banking system. But if such people succeed, that would lead to huge problems.”

When the judge asked him if the defendant actually knew the documents were forged, the witness replied that there was enough evidence that they did.

N A, a naturalised American of Iranian descent, was charged with abetting in defrauding the Central Bank and forgery.

Prosecutors say he went along with I K, an Iranian, to withdraw the money from the bank in April.

I K denied attempting to withdraw the money, saying he only went to check if documents he received from another person were real. N A said he was merely serving as a translator. The men, who have been in prison since April, went on trial in June.

The defendants carried a power of attorney allowing them to withdraw the money on behalf of its owner, the witness said. He also cited a trip by one of the defendants from Iran to the Emirates as evidence he had malicious intent to make the withdrawal.

“He could have called the bank from Iran and inquired whether the funds really existed or he could have contacted the UAE Embassy in Iran, which has a commercial attache, and confirmed with them whether the funds existed,” the witness said.

The case was adjourned until January 11 to allow Mr Ismat to present his testimony. The two witnesses were due to testify last week but they did not attend the hearing because of unspecified circumstances.