A call to lift immunity of Dubai officials

The Dubai police chief calls for officials under investigation for corruption to be stripped of their immunity, and for the authorities to be able to fully prosecute all suspects.

DUBAI // The Dubai police chief has called for officials under investigation for corruption to be stripped of their immunity, and for the formation of a special panel to enable authorities to fully prosecute all suspects. Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said yesterday that the emirate's current wave of corruption investigations had reached its final stages.

He urged the Government to strip those officials allegedly involved in the cases of their immunity. The cases could come to a deadlock if his request was refused, he warned. Dubai launched a wide-ranging anti-corruption investigation more than a year ago to revitalise investor confidence. So far, 11 investigations or court cases are under way, 34 executives are either in court or on their way there and Dh3.58 billion (US$975 million) has allegedly been stolen or used as bribe money, according to prosecutors.

"If we want to recollect the wasted public money, everybody guilty has to be held accountable and those suspected need to be questioned regardless of their rank," Gen Tamim told a press briefing. "We are waiting for the green light from the Dubai Government. If we cannot prosecute the top officials we should not have cases against the others. "The lifting of immunity is essential for the flow of investigations and without it these investigations are pointless. Under the current situation the investigations are at standstill, so we are asking all of the concerned bodies, such as the public prosecution, auditing department and the executive office to take necessary measures in order to have a successful investigation."

Gen Tamim, although not willing to disclose how many companies were involved in the investigations or the amount of the funds embezzled, said the scale was large with corruption problems across the board. There are so far 63 suspects involved in cases, excluding the officials that Gen Tamim wants to deprive of immunity, according to police. The police chief said he was optimistic about the response of the Government as the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, were very clear.

"Sheikh Mohammed is keen on protecting public funds and he firmly believes that nobody is above the law," he said. He also called for the formation of a corruption inquiry consisting of the state security apparatus in Dubai, the public prosecutor's office and the financial auditing department to facilitate prosecutions. "There is an urgent need for a joint investigation team as I am not pleased with the co-ordination between the different bodies," Gen Tamim said.

The public prosecutor would be responsible for processing a case and following its progress, while state security forces would carry out criminal investigations and the financial auditing department would provide documentary evidence if Gen Tamim's proposal is adopted. The police chief also displayed a detailed plan on how to deal with corruption cases and under which laws offenders should be prosecuted. Offenders could face legal proceedings under the Dubai human resource law as well as under the UAE penal code as part of the proposal.

"The suspects will either be charged for mismanagement under the human resource law and will thus be terminated, or will have criminal charges registered against them," Gen Tamim said. The majority of the top officials suspected of involvement in the pending cases will face criminal charges, he said. Many of the suspects in the inquiry will also be facing charges of embezzlement of public funds and damaging public interest in favour of their own interest, he said.

wissa@thenational.ae