Fraudsters jailed for 'Royal Family' scam

Men in fraud that bilked people out of millions of dirhams by claiming they could secure UAE citizenship will server terms between three and six years.

ABU DHABI // The "ringleader" of a gang accused of defrauding people out of millions of dirhams after claiming they were close to the Royal Family was sentenced to six years in prison by the Criminal Court yesterday. The defendants - two Emiratis, two Sudanese and one Jordanian - were charged with forgery and fraudulently obtaining Dh5.5 million. They told their victims they could use their connections with the Royal Family to obtain decrees of UAE citizenship.

Prosecutors said FM, an Emirati, led the scheme. MG, the second Emirati who worked at the office of a member of the Royal Family, was found guilty of co-operating in the fraud and accepting bribes. He was sentenced to four years in prison and fined Dh365,000. The other three defendants were sentenced to three years in prison. The defendants, prosecutors said, received the money in cheques, including one for Dh170,000 and another for about Dh500,000.

It is not known how many people were defrauded, officials said, but at least two Pakistani businessmen were targeted. UAE citizenship is granted only by decree. The defendants, according to court records, said they could use their connections to ensure their clients obstained citizenship. They used copies of old decrees, changing the names to match those of their victims. The five were arrested in a sting after the Organised Crime Unit at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Investigation Division was tipped off early last month, prosecutors said.

Defence lawyers told the court in the previous hearing that the evidence against their clients was scant. "There is no evidence that my client told people he had any connection with the Royal Family," FM's lawyer said. "There are only claims from witnesses." The five appeared before the court twice and the verdict was issued eight days after the first hearing, on July 18, in which they denied the charges.