A Sharjah court has adjourned a hearing until July 11 in a criminal case against Arif Naqvi, the founder of private equity firm Abraaj, and another executive for issuing a cheque without sufficient funds, according to court officials.
Mr Naqvi’s lawyer Habib Al Mulla, the executive chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, was not present at the court hearing that was scheduled for Thursday, court officials said.
The Sharjah court case relates to a cheque for 177.1 million dirhams jointly signed by Mr Naqvi and an Abraaj executive Rafique Lakhani, and drawn out to Hamid Jafar, another founding shareholder in the buyout firm. On July 2, the prosecution had asked the court for Mr Naqvi to receive the maximum three-year sentence. The punishment for issuing a bounced cheque under the UAE law can be jail or a fine.
Mr Naqvi’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. an Abraaj spokesperson declined to comment.
The case is the latest blow in a five-month saga involving the Dubai-based firm, which has been accused of allegedly mismanaging investor money in a $1 billion healthcare fund. Abraaj has denied the allegations.
Abraaj, the biggest private equity firm in the Middle East and North Africa which at its peak managed close to $14bn in assets, last month filed for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands as it seeks an agreement with creditors. It is selling parts of its businesses including its investment management arm to Colony Capital.
The scandal erupted in February this year, when investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Finance Corporation hired investigators to look into the alleged mishandling of their money in the fund.
The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is also investigating the allegations of fund mismanagement at the embattled firm and has interviewed Mr Naqvi and other senior executives in the past few months as part of the probe, Reuters reported yesterday, citing unidentified sources.
The regulator declined to comment. Abraaj in a statement said that discussions between it and the regulator were "ongoing".
"The DFSA is kept apprised of developments in the overall Abraaj Group and has our full co-operation on all relevant matters," the statement said.