x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai to review case against Nakheel executives at Australia's request

Australian prime minister reaches out to Sheikh Mohammed regarding fraud case against former Nakheel executives.

Dubai authorities have agreed to look again at the Dh44 million fraud case against two Australians who have been in custody for almost four years, reports in that country's media say.

The development came after the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, phoned Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to raise the cases of MJ and ML. The Australian reports say a legal review has been ordered.

The call from Ms Gillard was confirmed on Sheikh Mohammed's official website, which reported that they discussed "bolstering bilateral relations between the UAE and Australia for the best interests of both peoples".

The families of both men have long lobbied for Ms Gillard to intervene.

The men, former executives of the developer Nakheel, were arrested in January 2009 after allegations by the Australian property developer Sunland over the purchase of land at the Waterfront.

The men are accused of conspiring with two other men, AJP and AR, to swindle Dh44.1m from the Sunland Group.

They were also accused of giving false information about the ownership and value of a plot of land at the ill-fated waterfront project.

MJ and ML were later charged with abuse of public funds, fraud, breach of trust and acquiring illegal profits and commissions.

They spent nine months in prison, including three in solitary confinement, before being placed under house arrest in October 2009. They are forbidden to travel.

Sunland later issued a letter retracting claims against ML, saying the Sunland parties and David Brown, chief operating officer for the Dubai arm of the property giant, had no claim against him.

But both men, who strongly deny the accusations, still face long prison terms if a Dubai court finds them guilty.