x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fujairah officials guilty of corruption

Authorities say the group was involved in municipal bribery and illegal land deals. One former and two current officials are sentenced.

FUJAIRAH // Five people, including the former Fujairah Municipality director, the head of planning and the head of land, were sentenced to jail in an anti-corruption ruling yesterday. The case involved the forgery of documents, bribery, embezzlement and the allotment of land and commercial premises against municipality rules. While five people - the three former municipality employees and a man and woman who acted as go-betweens - were found guilty, three others were cleared of bribery. The verdicts and charges were revealed to the court but no other details of the case were made public. None of the eight accused or their lawyers was present as the presiding judge of Fujairah Criminal Court of First Instance, Justice Ahmed al Azouri, delivered the verdict to their families. Standing accused in court were the former municipality director, the former head of the planning department at the municipality, the former head of land department, an employee of Fujairah National Bank, an owner of a contracting company, an Emirati and two Egyptian women. Two those convicted were Emirati, two were Egyptian and one was Sudanese. The former municipality director, a 49-year-old Emirati, was sentenced to a total of seven years on two separate counts: four years for forgery and three years for offering bribes. He was cleared of taking bribes. A Sudanese national, 54, the former head of planning, was sentenced to three years for forgery, three years for accepting bribes, and ordered to pay a Dh80,000 (US$21,780) fine for misuse of an official stamp. He filled applications with fake names to take possession of land, shops and commercial premises. An Emirati businessman, 39, was sentenced to three years for forgery and assisting the other defendants. He was cleared of bribery charges. The former head of land, a 70-year-old Egyptian national, was sentenced to three years for forgery, but was cleared of accepting bribes for illegal allotments. His wife, 66, also on trial over accusations of bribery, was found not guilty. A housewife aged 29, who was largely believed to be a mediator among the different parties, received six and a half years for her part in persuading the different parties to accept bribes. She was sentenced to three years for forgery, three years for bribery, and six months for claiming to work at the planning department. The sentence comes amid an effort by the Fujairah government to crack down on corruption. The court did not release its reasons for sentencing. All of the accused remain free on bail and have 15 days to lodge an appeal, after which the court will submit the verdict to the police, who will arrest those found guilty. Families of the convicted declined to comment. The case began on Oct 12, although all eight defendants struggled to find lawyers to defend them. None of the lawyers in the case was from inside the emirate. Abdul Nasser al Nagar, a lawyer at Fujairah court, said that "no lawyer in Fujairah wanted to take on this case. It is a very sensitive case". There were eight lawyers representing the accused, mainly from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. rghazal@thenational.ae myoussef@thenational.ae