x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

No freedom for bank fraud accused

Three men convicted of trying to defraud the Central Bank of more than ?7 billion must stay in prison until a final verdict on their appeal, the Court of Cassation ruled yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Three men convicted of trying to defraud the Central Bank of more than ?7 billion must stay in prison until a final verdict on their appeal, the Court of Cassation ruled yesterday. The three, two Germans and one Belgian, were among seven men who appeared before the Criminal Court of First Instance in January charged with attempting to withdraw ?7.2bn (Dh34.06bn)on December 21 from the UAE Central Bank. The mastermind of the fraud attempt, an Iranian identified as Agha Farzeen Sonali, has never been found.

Sonali was sentenced to five years in prison in his absence, but all the others were acquitted. Prosecutors appealed the verdict, and the appeals court sentenced the seven to two years in prison. They now have appealed to the Court of Cassation, and three of them yesterday asked the court to free them until it issues a verdict on that appeal. The court said such requests could be granted only under specific circumstances, such as new evidence, and refused the request.

At the original hearing the three men said they were planning to build a five-star hospital in Abu Dhabi when they were approached by four Iranians with a "legitimate business deal" to help to finance the project. The Iranians convinced them they could withdraw the money from an Iranian's account at the Central Bank and transfer it to a bank in Frankfurt, Germany. The three entered the bank with a document claiming to give them power of attorney and authorisation for one of the Germans to receive the money on behalf of Sonali.

They carried documents with account numbers and records showing that the amount had been transferred from Germany to the Central Bank, witnesses from the bank told the court. The three men were arrested and led police officers to the four Iranian associates, who also were accused of forging the documents. @Email:hhassan@thenational.ae