Interpol warrant for runaway fraudster

A warrant has been issued for Australian businessman Ian Bruce Simm who left Dubai in 2008 with some unfinished business: two fraud cases and five years of prison time.

The Australian businessman Ian Bruce Simm arrived in Dubai in 2005, and when he took a "business trip" out of the country three years later, he left behind some unfinished business: two fraud cases and five total years of prison time.

Mr Simm, 54, is the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant issued late last week. His whereabouts are unknown, but if he is in his home country, Australia would be required to prosecute him on behalf of the Dubai authorities under a new extradition and legal assistance agreement between the countries. Mr Simm established Cougar Holdings in Dubai, a company he already had registered in the British Virgin Islands. He was a self-described investment guru who set up businesses in advertising, public relations, graphic design, media planning and communications. All promoted Cougar Holdings.

One of the holding company's subsidiaries was Easy Property Group. Among its ventures was a high-priced investment fund. "The fund value is $100 million and will be invested primarily in the dynamic Dubai and Abu Dhabi property markets," Mr Simm advertised on his site. The minimum investment entry level in this fund was US$1 million (Dh3.67m). It is not known how many investors sunk money into the scheme.

His office was set up in the Fairmont Hotel in Dubai, where he hired several staff. Mr Simm sponsored sailing competitions and sporting events, attended galas and dined with the movers and shakers of Dubai. But despite glossy websites promoting "prime real estate projects", all of the endeavours existed only on paper, officials said. According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mr Simm left the country in late 2008 after he learnt he would face one of the court cases.

His business license in Dubai expired on March 28, 2009. His office phones were disconnected and his mobile phone switched off permanently. In the first of two cases brought against him in 2009 in the Dubai Court of First Instance, Mr Simm was sentenced in absentia to one year for fraud involving an undisclosed amount. In a second case, filed by one of the investors, he was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison, also for fraud involving an undisclosed amount.

The UAE has 246 international arrest warrants registered on Interpol, nearly all issued by Dubai Police in connection with fraud cases. All member states of Interpol are required to arrest wanted fugitives and extradite them to the requesting nation if there is an extradition treaty between the two nations. The UAE has extradition treaties with 35 countries. * With additional reporting from Awad Mustafa