Central Bank fraud convictions overturned

Two men are acquitted of trying to fraudulently withdraw billions of dirhams using forged documents.

ABU DHABI // Two men convicted of attempting to fraudulently withdraw Dh14.4 billion from the Central Bank were acquitted today by an appeals court – the first defendants to go free in a string of such cases. 

IK, an Iranian, was sentenced on January 18 by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance to five years in prison followed by deportation. His alleged accomplice, NA, a naturalised American of Iranian descent, was sentenced to three years in prison. They were convicted of defrauding the bank and forgery.

Although the Court of Appeal rejected their conviction, they will remain in prison while prosecutors decide whether to appeal the reversal. That process could take weeks.

Their appeal centered on the argument that they did not intend to withdraw the money, but were merely inquiring about whether the documents they had been given for the withdrawal were genuine. NA said his job was to translate after a friend asked him to help IK. Prosecutors argued the men wanted to undermine the UAE economy by taking out such colossal amounts. 

The verdicts at the time were handed down by Chief Justice Abdulhafiz Zidan, who took over the cases after the previous panel stepped down amid "untruthful" media reports. 

Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Baseer and two colleagues were to announce a verdict in one of the cases on November 22. Instead, the chief justice said the case had been compromised after two local newspapers published articles on September 28 that said the judges had issued an acquittal.

The two reporters who were involved in writing the stories were initially referred to the Public Prosecution and accused of maliciously intending to influence the decision of the judges.

The Central Bank does not hold private funds and deals solely with other banks. Defendants in another Central Bank withdrawal case were initially found not guilty but were convicted on appeal.