Businessmen jailed over Dh44m property scam

Former heads of Tamweel and Dubai Islamic Bank among five executives jailed and ordered to pay Dh51.7m in fines.

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DUBAI // The former heads of Tamweel and Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) and the chief executive of the property developer Bonyan have been jailed and ordered to pay Dh51.7 million (US$14m) in fines and repayments after being convicted of bribery and embezzlement. AS, 38, the former chief executive of Tamweel, the UAE's largest mortgage lender, and his deputy AN, 44, were each sentenced to three years in prison by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance.

The former DIB chief executive and Tamweel executive manager, SA, 40, was sentenced to a year in jail along with Bonyan boss AA and FA, 28, a Jordanian who was a senior Tamweel executive and its chief investment officer. The defendants were accused by prosecutors last July of making an estimated Dh44million in profits through illegal land deals involving company-owned properties. All five were arrested a year ago and remained in custody during the investigation.

According to court documents, AS and his deputy asked AA to transfer to them three pieces of land at Sama al Jadaf in Dubai at the price Tamweel had paid for them. They were then alleged to have sold the properties to Bonyan Holdings, a partner in the development, at higher prices, personally making about Dh21m. The other men are accused of deals that resulted in them collecting profits of Dh3.7m to Dh13.8m.

Defence lawyers argued that the 6,000-page charge sheet contained no evidence and that the case should be dismissed. In their closing arguments, they said the lead government investigator in the case should be charged with manipulating evidence. Hamdi al Shiwi and Dr Habib al Mulla had earlier asked the court to disregard Mohammed Hussien's financial reports, the basis for the prosecution's case, because of "confusion" in his calculations.

They demanded an expert committee of accountants and independent auditors be formed to review the findings of Mr Hussien's financial audit department, which has led investigations into alleged fraud involving several of Dubai's biggest companies. Their demands were dismissed by the court, which ordered the defendants to jointly repay Dh51.7 million. In the judgment, issued by Judge Fahmy Mounri Fahmy, AS, AN and AA were jointly ordered to pay Dh20.8m in fines. AS and AN were ordered to pay another fine of Dh14.4m plus a repayment of Dh4.3 m.

AS, AN and FA were fined a further Dh2.8m and ordered to jointly repay Dh1.8m. AN and SA were jointly fined Dh3.6m and ordered to repay the same amount. The former DIB boss, SA, was sentenced last March to three years in prison and fined more than Dh115 million (US$27.2m) for accepting a bribe and unlawful commissions. It was the highest fine ordered by a court in a case involving Dubai's wide-ranging investigations into corporate corruption.

The Criminal Court of First Instance convicted him of accepting an Dh11.75m bribe to facilitate a property sale and collecting unlawful commissions worth Dh16m on the sale. Dr Habib al Mulla, who is representing SA in his current appeal case, had argued that the investigations launched by the financial audit department were illegal. The convictions are the fourth by the Dubai Criminal Courts as a result of allegations of impropriety at some of Dubai's biggest companies.

To date, 13 cases have gone before the courts. A total of Dh3.7 billion is believed to have been embezzled.