x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Property chief summoned in Dubai Waterfront fraud case

The chief executive of an Australian property development firm has been called to testify in the Dh44 million Dubai Waterfront fraud case.

DUBAI // The chief executive of an Australian property development firm has been called to testify in the Dh44million Dubai Waterfront fraud case.

Judge El Saeed Bargouth yesterday summoned David Brown, the chief executive of the Sunland Group that owns the Palazzo Versace.

He will be cross examined in a case involving two compatriots, former senior executives of the Dubai Waterfront project who face corruption charges for allegedly defrauding the Sunland Group.

M J, the chief executive of the Dubai Waterfront project, and ML, his deputy, are charged with obtaining Dh44m in illegal profits and giving false information about the ownership and value of a plot of land.

In yesterday's hearing, M J and ML's defence team questioned Mohammed Mustafa Hussein, the lead fraud investigator from the Dubai Financial Audit Department.

Advocates Salim al Sha'ali and Ali al Shamsi, representing the defendants, presented the court with e-mail communications between Mr Hussein and a number of witnesses during the course of the investigation. In these e-mails, witnesses claim that Mr Brown denied the payment of any funds to the defendants.

Mr Hussein responded to the statements, claiming that further investigations revealed that both men in fact engineered the fraud.

"During the investigation, we acquired documents that show these payments were made and ended in three overseas accounts - one of them belonging to M J," he said.

When questioned about M L's involvement, Mr Hussein responded that ML prepared false price estimates that were based on fraudulent calculations.

"ML deceived Nakheel into approving lower prices for the land that Sunland purchased. He offered benefits to Sunland without prior approval, and used outdated sources to set the price guide," he said.

According to public prosecution documents, the two defrauded Sunland Group and Nakheel by selling a plot of land below cost-price, then asked Sunland Group to pay a company named Prudentia Holdings Dh44m, saying they held ownership rights to the plot.

Mr Hussein told the court that the money should have been paid to Nakheel and not Prudentia Holdings, and that Prudentia was involved in the fraud.

The chief executive of Prudentia Holdings, the Australian AR, is being tried in absentia along with Dubai Waterfront's chief legal counsel, compatriot AB. The court will reconvene on December 5 to hear Mr Brown's testimony.

amustafa@thenational.ae