x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Deyaar defence questions expertise of star witness

The defence in a case in which former Deyaar executives are charged with corruption challenge the expertise of the prosecution's star witness.

DUBAI // The defence in a case in which former Deyaar executives are charged with corruption yesterday challenged the expertise of the prosecution's star witness, claiming his evidence was seriously flawed. Mohammed Mustafa Hussain, has been the driving force behind this and several other cases since he was appointed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, to investigate corruption in Dubai companies.

In this case, Mr Hussain has accused the company's former chief executive, ZS, of taking part in approximately Dh132 million (US$36m) in illegal dealings. "We respectfully ask for an independent auditor from the Ministry of Finance to be assigned to look into the findings of Mr Hussain," a member of the defence team told the court. "There is no proof that he is qualified to conduct this investigation, and the court should not take his claims to be the claims of an expert."

The defence cited what it said were computational errors in a report prepared for the court by Mr Hussain. "For example on page 12, there is an error regarding a Turkish investment. Instead of the figure being US$470,000, the report states that the figure was written as US$47,000." Mr Hussain remained silent during the challenge to his expertise. The defence also said it had not been given all the documents that the prosecution had presented to the court, and demanded to be given the papers and time to review them.

The presiding judge, Rifat Mahmood Tolba, told the defence to make a formal request for the papers. In his testimony for the prosecution yesterday, Mr Hussain said that most of the illegal activity that he had investigated - including misappropriation of funds, bribery and selling of land above and below market price for profit - occurred before Deyaar went public in mid-2007. However, he said, the corruption had continued after that time.

Nine of the 10 defendants were in court for the hearing; the 10th is still a fugitive. The case before the court yesterday stems from a larger Deyaar case, allegedly involving almost Dh800 million. In that case, ZS and a former UAE federal minister, named as MK, and a third man, identified as JD, face similar charges. JD is the fugitive. MK, who is on bail, was not in court for yesterday's case, as he is not a party to it.

ZS was not present but is in police custody. He posted Dh2 million bail in the Dh800 million case but is being held without bail on charges in the Dh132 million case. Judge Tolba adjourned the trial until September 2 so that the defence would have time to review documents that Mr Hussain submitted to the court yesterday. ealghalib@thenational.ae