x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Fugitive Al Barakah chief turns himself in to police

The chief executive of a property development company faces accusations of writing bad cheques.

ABU DHABI // The chief executive of a property development company, who had been on the run for seven months amid accusations of writing bad cheques, has surrendered to the police. IK, the head of Al Barakah, the developer behind what would have been the tallest tower in Ajman, surrendered to Dubai Police last Thursday and was officially arrested on Sunday, according to the public prosecutor's office at Muraqqabat police station.

First Sgt Khaled Barakat said IK had told the police his business had worsened and he wanted to solve everything in the courts. "He had one bounced cheque of nearly Dh10 million (US$2.7m), and the case has been sent to the court," Sgt Barakat said, adding that further charges relating to other cheques may be forthcoming. According to the cheques department of the Rashidiya police station in Dubai, 16 cases were filed against IK by February this year, the fraudulent cheques amounting to more than Dh40m.

"The public prosecutor is done with it," Sgt Barakat said. "[IK] is now in the central jail. The next step will be the court audience. The court will tell us when they will fix a date, probably by next Wednesday." Al Barakah launched around a dozen property projects in Dubai and Ajman since 2007, including the Burj Manara Ajman in Marmooka City, which was billed as the tallest tower in Ajman. Last year the company said it was planning to develop Dh3bn worth of projects over three years.

The company got into trouble after it sold off-plan properties through buy-back offers. The chief executive reportedly had signed agreements with hundreds of investors promising to buy back the properties after six months with a guaranteed 50 per cent profit on the down payment, and had signed the post-dated cheques as a guarantee. When the cheques started bouncing in November last year, the chief executive vanished.

Executives at Al Barakah last month invited investors to drop all claims against the firm in return for shares in a new holding company. Projects would be built and financed by an unnamed British construction company, they said, but investors expressed doubts about the proposal as the company set to represent them would be based in the British Virgin Islands and they would have no voting rights. According to the police, IK's name was on a computer blacklist at all ports, preventing him from leaving the country.

"IK was in the UAE all the time," said Tariq Minhaj, Al Barakah's spokesman. "He finally surrendered himself because when we showed our proposal there were so many queries from the side of the investors who were always asking 'Where is IK?', or 'If he is not here how can this proposal be fruitful?' Now here he is and you can proceed with the proposal." Mr Minhaj said he was with the chief executive during the arrest.

"We have tried to sell our property, our land, to collect money back from the master developer but we have failed," he said. "We intend to construct the projects. The ball is in the investors' hands. If they want to take their money back through the proposal or go for a liquidation or whatever the decision of the court will be." @Email:ngillet@thenational.ae