x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Five deny Dh5.5m Royal Family scam

They deny they defrauded people, claiming they were close to the Royal Family and could provide Emirati citizenship - for a price.

ABU DHABI // Five men denied in court yesterday that they defrauded people out of millions of dirhams after claiming they were close to the Royal Family and could provide Emirati citizenship - for a price. The two Emiratis, two Sudanese and one Jordanian appeared before the Criminal Court of First Instance. Prosecutors say they took Dh5.5 million in the scam. It is not known how many people were defrauded, officials said, but at least two Pakistani businessmen were targets of the scheme.

Prosecutors say the accused received money in cheques, including one for Dh170,000 and another of about Dh500,000. Prosecutors claimed the man they accuse of being the scheme's ringleader, FM, an Emirati, told people he had a strong relationship with the Royal Family and that he could use his connections to obtain decrees of UAE citizenship for them. The defendants, prosecutors said, also took people to buildings and told them they were governmental departments.

The Organised Crime Unit at the Abu Dhabi CID was tipped off early last month, prosecutors said. "Police officers arrested me and asked me about 'immigration decrees' and mentioned the names of the two businessmen," MH, the Jordanian, testified. "I told them: 'What decrees? I don't know'. They then threatened me that if I don't confess, they would torture me." Defence lawyers told the court that the evidence against their clients was scant.

"There is no evidence that my client told people he had connections with the Royal Family," FM's lawyer said. "There are only claims from witnesses." MH told the judge he was dragged into the case because one of the alleged victims held a grudge against him for divorcing his daughter in December. "He threatened me several times to get me deported, so he used this chance to drag me into the case. I have absolutely nothing to do with any of this," MH told the court.

If convicted, the men face at least one year in jail and a minimum fine of Dh30,000. The verdict is scheduled for July 27. hhassan@thenational.ae