x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Supervisor accused of embezzlement was 'morally destroyed' by airline

LH, an Iranian who was stationed at British Airway's Dubai International Airport office, is accused of using an airline debit card to withdraw Dh30,730.

DUBAI // The defence lawyer for a British Airways customer services supervisor accused of embezzling more than Dh30,000 in compensation funds said yesterday the airline was trying to "morally abuse" his client. The 31-year-old supervisor, who was employed by the airline for nine years, was charged in a Dubai court with breach of trust, forgery and the use of forged documents to illegally acquire Dh30,730 from British Airways.

LH, an Iranian who was stationed at the company's Dubai International Airport office, is accused of using an airline debit card to withdraw the funds. Prosecutors told the court LH had used the debit card to get money 10 times in the past four years. The debit card is used to compensate passengers for lost baggage, damaged luggage or cancelled flights. The airline filed the complaint after a customer services manager discovered a discrepancy in one of the compensation claims. The manager informed the company's Middle East commercial manager, Paolo De Renzis, who filed a police report on December 1.

"A £300 [Dh1,800] payment was made by LH in a claim that was supposed to be worth £90," he said. "Further investigation between Dubai and London revealed she had regularly been funnelling money from the airline." LH denied the charges for a second time in court yesterday. Her case is being retried after the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours dismissed it last March on grounds it was beyond its jurisdiction.

Prosecutors appealed and the retrial in misdemeanour court was ordered. LH's lawyer accused British Airways of "morally abusing" his client with the case. Saeed al Ghailani told the court LH had admitted her mistake and repaid the airline after the original investigation. He said British Airways had "conspired under the cover of darkness" to falsely accuse his client and cover up their mistakes. "Your honour, after my client rectified the situation, she returned to work. But she has subsequently been suspended since November 5. This is the worst kind of abuse - they have morally and psychologically destroyed her," Mr al Ghailani said.

He also argued the case had no standing because the bulk of the accusations come from an investigation carried out in the UK and not in the UAE. The court will issue its verdict next week. amustafa@thenational.ae