'Non-existent wallet' defendants jailed for Dh400m scam

The man behind the swindles known as the "case of the non-existent wallet" was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for fraud and forgery.

ABU DHABI // The man behind the "case of the non-existent wallet" was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for fraud and forgery, the government news agency, WAM, reported. AQ Qublan was charged with cheating 8,000 investors out of Dh400 million (US$108.9m) through an investment scam. His sister and two brothers were sentenced to two years in prison for acting as brokers to get people to put money into a non-existent investment firm.

The remaining 91 associates were also sentenced to two years, the report said. The Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance also fined Qublan Dh150,000. The other defendants were fined Dh50,000 each. In 2008, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department ordered that Qublan's assets, as well as those of his brothers, be auctioned off in order to reimburse the victims of their crime. Abu Dhabi Police agreed to hold an auction of the 63 vehicles seized from the defendants. It is estimated that three of the vehicles were worth a combined total of more than Dh1m.

The court ordered that the forged document at the heart of the case should be destroyed, according to the report. The group was said to have issued thousands of post-dated cheques as a guarantee to investors. They promised monthly profits of 30 to 40 per cent on their initial investments. Some of the victims were paid for their first month in order to encourage them to invest further, but many received no money at all.

Property and cars were sold off, and bank loans procured, in order for many to continue to invest in the company. Many referred their family and friends to the fraudulent brokerage firm. The police investigation, which began in April 2008, was complicated by shoddy book-keeping by the defendants, and the fact that several defendants stole some of the profits from Qublan. In a second, unrelated hearing, three prime suspects in the "Shandaqawi Portfolio" case were sentenced to three years in prison and fined Dh100,000 for committing fraud, WAM reported.

However, the prime suspect in a third case, called the "United Investors" case, was acquitted of fraud because of a lack of evidence. Complainants in these cases have been ordered to contact the civil court to reclaim back their investments. @Email:amcmeans@thenational.ae