Ex-Drake & Scull chief executive arrested in Jordan

Khaldoun Tabari says he remains unaware of the reason an international warrant was issued for his arrest

Khaldoun Tabari, the former CEO of Drake and Scull, denies all of the charges that have been filed against him. Ravindranath K / The National
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The former chief executive of Dubai-based construction company Drake & Scull International was arrested earlier this month in Jordan.

Khaldoun Tabari, who led the company from before its initial public offering on the Dubai Financial Market in 2008 until October 2016, was arrested on January 5th and surrendered his passport to the Jordanian authorities.

He told The National he remains unaware of the allegations that have been made against him.

"We are surprised. My lawyer is shocked. We have no clue," Mr Tabari said.

Mr Tabari sold his remaining shares in Drake & Scull February 2017 and resigned as a board member at the same time, as a restructuring and recapitalisation of the business was agreed which involved a Dh500 million capital injection in Drake & Scull.

However, the company subsequently said in an announcement in May last year that it had handed over files "related to questionable projects for the period 2009-16” as part of 15 legal complaints that had been filed to the public prosecutor for what it described as “offences by members of the previous management during their tenure between 2009-2017”.

The company did not name any of the executives involved, but in June 2018 Mr Tabari's UAE bank accounts were frozen and a travel ban was issued against him. He was outside of the UAE at the time and hasn't returned to the country since, although he says his lawyers have been in constant contact with the public prosecutor's office.

"What we know is there has been a committee looking at all things [regarding his past conduct at Drake & Scull] which we gave all the information," he said.

"There has been no communication. My lawyer goes every week. I have letters to prove that saying 'it is still under investigation, wait until we call you'. The latest letter we got was on October 22, 2019," he added.

Drake & Scull said in a statement to the Dubai Financial Market on November 6 last year that "ongoing investigations have led to the filing of additional criminal complaints in Dubai".

"Probes are also underway to uncover any other offences committed against the company. Further, the court convicted one of the previous board members and he is currently serving time in a UAE jail," it said.

It also added that internal investigations carried out "through a fact-finding committee and a professional group of financial and legal experts" had uncovered a series of annual losses that had been hidden from shareholders that reached a total of Dh3.15 billion by 2017, which was about three times' the company's paid-up capital.

"These hidden losses are the result of the previous executive management’s failure to comply with corporate governance and transparency rules, and lack of proper managerial and financial standards, the fact-finding committee observed," the company's statement said.

A spokesman for Drake & Scull declined to comment.