x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Legal expert denies accepting bribe for testimony

A former public official is accused of offering to alter his evidence in a civil case - if convicted, his other cases could be petitioned.

DUBAI // A court-appointed expert yesterday denied accepting a bribe as a public official after he was accused of offering to sway his reports and testimony to favour the plaintiff in a Dh5 million civil case. The Egyptian defendant OM, 58, is sworn to provide unbiased expert opinion in disputes. He was accused at the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance of accepting a bribe from a German businessman involved in a dispute with a German engineer since 2008.

The case is the second of its kind within days. Another court-appointed expert faces charges of gross misconduct in an evaluation presented in a Dh1.2 billion case against the property firm Dynasty Zarooni. Should they be convicted, parties involved in cases they reviewed can petition to have them reopened. In yesterday's case, Bahzad Ferdous, 40, a German businessman, went to the authorities after the defendant allegedly requested a bribe of as much as Dh40,000 to help him win the case.

A letter from the Dubai Court of Appeals included in the case file said OM was assigned to the dispute by Judge Ahmed Issa to prepare a technical report. The letter said the defendant was appointed after a lower civil court reached its verdict based on a report handed in by another expert. The civil dispute involved Mr Ferdous's Mammut Technocrete, a Jebel Ali-based company that owns the world's largest pre-cast concrete factory, and a German engineer identified only as Gunther, who owns a Dubai engineering consultancy.

Mr Ferdous told prosecutors that he was introduced to Gunther in 2006 through an acquaintance. Gunther asked Mr Ferdous to help him out by referring clients to his business. The same year, said Mr Ferdous, Gunther complained about certain clients referred to him who failed to meet their financial obligations. Mr Ferdous said he faced a Dh5m civil suit filed by Gunther two years later in the Dubai Civil Court. The court found in favour of Mr Ferdous that same year, which was appealed by Gunther.

The Dubai Civil Court of Appeals appointed OM as the expert in the case in 2009, records showed. OM told Mr Ferdous in a conference that he was better off reaching a settlement with the plaintiff because OM's findings were not in his favour, Mr Ferdous said. He told OM that he refused to consider settling the case, he said. OM was entitled to meet with participants in the case to gather information but was not permitted to discuss his findings, the letter sent by the appeal court stated.

Florentina Aniani, Mammut Technocrete's legal adviser, also attended the conference. Ms Aniani, a 31-year-old Romanian, told prosecutors that OM asked for her telephone number after the conference and, a few days later, asked for a private meeting. When she met the defendant at a cafe, he told her that her company's legal situation was not good and reiterated that they should reach a settlement, Ms Aniani said.

"He said the settlement should be worth Dh2 milion to Dh2.5 million and we should pay him Dh30,000 to Dh40,000 for setting up the settlement," Ms Aniani told prosecutors. She went to Mr Ferdous, who told her to contact the police. An economic crimes officer with Dubai Police said Ms Aniani was instructed to continue communicating with MO to set up a sting operation, which took place in a restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates last November. Officers gave Ms Aniani a hidden microphone and told her to hand OM the Dh40,000 payment.

A transcript presented in court yesterday outlined the conversation between the defendant and Ms Aniani, which concluded with the legal adviser presenting OM with an envelope containing the money, which he placed on a chair next to him. Police arrested him after Ms Aniani left but could not find the envelope. A police sergeant told the court that OM praised God for his luck and was happy that the police were not able to find the money on him. However, a restaurant employee then found it on the floor. The trial was adjourned until September 29. @Email:amustafa@thenational.ae