Man denies forging documents to swindle Dubai World firm out of Dh2.1m



DUBAI // A man accused of using forged documents to get a job as a human resources manager at a Dubai developer and swindle it out of Dh2.1 million appeared in court yesterday to deny the charge.

MBS, a 45-year-old from Britain, is accused of using forged degree certificates to get his job at Limitless - part of Dubai World - and using further forgeries to hire non-existent employees while pocketing the proceeds between 2007 and 2008.

"These are not forged, these are originals," MBS told the presiding judge at the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance when shown the alleged forgeries in the prosecution's case file.

Prosecutors claim he paid £40,000 (Dh232,822) for a forged bachelor's degree in physics from the University of London and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Warwick. He was said to have been wanted by British police at the time of his arrest.

EB, the strategy section head at the company, said that MBS had supposedly hired a Russian employee on a monthly salary of Dh125,000. However, when he found a resume supposedly written by the Russian, the writing appeared similar to that of the human resources manager.

The section head said he became suspicious and hired a detective agency to track down the Russian. The agency could not find him, and the section head informed police.

Officers discovered that the human resources manager had a criminal record in Britain and that a warrant for his arrest was issued in England in 1999, the court heard. Prosecutors said he wired the embezzled money to a bank in Cyprus.

The human resources manager presented a written defence to the court and asked it to issue a verdict.

"I have been in jail since May 2009," he told the court through a translator.

The verdict will be issued on April 24.

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Born: Mukalla, Yemen, 1979

Education: UAE University, Al Ain

Family: Married with two daughters: Asayel, 7, and Sara, 6

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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