x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati 'trapped' abroad on fake-cash charge claims innocence

An Emirati man detained in India for five years on charges of trafficking millions of counterfeit money has denied the charges, complaining that the wait has been too long.

Alkaz Khamis Obaid Khamis, an Emirati man accused of bringing in counterfeit currency to the tune of 30 million rupees to India, says he is innocent.
Alkaz Khamis Obaid Khamis, an Emirati man accused of bringing in counterfeit currency to the tune of 30 million rupees to India, says he is innocent.

DUBAI // A former Emirati military officer arrested in India more than five years ago on charges of trafficking millions in counterfeit currency says his trial is progressing too slowly.

Alkaz Khamis Obaid Ali, 37, was detained at Hyderabad airport in 2007 and accused of smuggling 26 million rupees (Dh1.75m) from Pakistan to India.

"When I landed in the airport, police officers took me for questioning," said Mr Ali, who was released on bail nearly a year ago but cannot travel. "They said I had brought money from Pakistan via Dubai to India in a container. They found the container in a guesthouse and it was not even in my name."

His arrest on August 24, 2007, came a day before two bomb blasts rocked Hyderabad. He claims he was only in the city on business.

Eight other people were arrested in connection with the bombings, including two of Mr Ali's brothers-in-law, who are Indian.

According to Indian media reports, police were investigating whether the money they accuse Mr Ali of shipping to India was used to finance the blasts.

The authorities said the arrival of the money consignments in India coincided with his visits to Pakistan, where they suspect the alleged terrorist plot originated.

Mr Ali, who retired from the UAE military in 2004 and was running a garment trading business in Dubai, claims he is innocent.

He said he was desperate to return to his family in the Emirates after spending nearly four years behind bars.

Mr Ali has successfully fought two similar cases of currency smuggling.

"When I was in police custody in Hyderabad, Gujarat police accused me of bringing another 2.4 million rupees," he said. "I was taken to Gujarat jail for 35 days and brought back to Hyderabad.

"I have only faced harassment by the police and courts."

In 2009, he was charged by Hyderabad police in a third case, when he was suspected of possessing fake notes with a face value of 200, 000 rupees.

According to documents seen by The National, the Gujarat court cleared him of any suspicion and ordered his acquittal in 2009. The Hyderabad court also found him innocent a year later.

Mr Ali, a father of three, last saw his youngest son as a newborn.

"My children have all grown up now," he said. "How many years will I have to wait before this torment ends?"

His final court trial, which began in 2009 and concerns the smuggling of 23 million rupees, is proceeding too slowly, he said.

According to Mr Ali, only one proper hearing has taken place this year.

"They keep postponing the hearing for some reason or the other," he said. "I had a hearing on November 2 but the witness was sick. The next hearing is on November 15."

Mr Ali's family in Dubai said they were frustrated by the trial's pace.

"They don't have any evidence to link him to the money," said Mallika Khalid, his mother. "They keep giving him different court dates. Even if he is guilty, they should go ahead and at least make a decision. His children are growing up without a father."

Mr Ali petitioned the court this year to release his passport so he could temporarily travel to Dubai to see his family, but the request was dismissed.

The UAE Foreign Ministry said it had asked the Indian authorities to expedite the case.

"This case has been going on for a very long time," said a ministry source. "We have discussed with the Indian government. We'll wait until the end of the year."

The Indian Embassy confirmed it had been approached by UAE officials about the case.

"We have told the concerned ministries to expedite the case," said MK Lokesh, the Indian Ambassador. "It is a judicial case and takes time. There are cases like this concerning Indians in the UAE, too."

pkannan@thenational.ae