ABU DHABI // A businessman accused of taking more than Dh140million to set up Emirati training centres that did not exist appeared in court yesterday to protest his innocence.
AH, from Oman, said he had set up seven training centres on Abu Dhabi island as well as in Al Ain and rural areas. He said he had more than 350 employees, two per cent of them Emiratis.
The businessman, chairman of a consultancy that provides customer service training throughout the region, appeared before the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance accused of taking Dh143.5m from the Abu Dhabi Tawteen (or Emiratisation) Council but failing to honour a signed contract to hone the skills of young Emiratis and help them to integrate into the workplace.
Specifically, prosecutors said, he failed to set up centres to train Emiratis throughout Abu Dhabi.
He was unable to present his full defence yesterday because some witnesses did not appear.
The judge told the lawyers to assign a whole day for the next hearing because, he said, of a large number of witnesses and experts giving detailed testimony.
The Tawteen council said the businessman lied before signing contracts in late 2009 when he said his company was licensed in Abu Dhabi.
AH replied that his company was licensed in Dubai and was obtaining a licence in Abu Dhabi at the time. The company was licensed in Abu Dhabi this February, he said.
"I am qualified to handle the job and my centre has licences from several countries in the region," AH told the court. "It was licensed this year in Abu Dhabi. I do not understand how I defrauded them; I built several centres in various areas in Abu Dhabi."
The judge told officials from the Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority that he could not hear their evidence yesterday because not all of the authority's witnesses were present.
"A witness is highly respected by the court and we appreciate that you came to testify, but technically we cannot hear you today," Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Baseer said.
The judge said that as a gesture from the court, the authority could choose the day of the next hearing. Witnesses include the head of the Tawteen council, Ali Abdullah al Kaabi, who is the former Minister of Labour.
He will provide written evidence, officials said. The judge ordered that Dr al Kaabi's evidence as well as that of the current executive manager of the council be entered into the court records at the next hearing.
The case was adjourned last month because the businessman, who was free on bail, did not attend court. His lawyer said he was living in Oman and that he would attend the next hearing.
"If he does not come to the next hearing, we will issue an arrest warrant for him," Chief Justice Baseer said. Both AH and his company were named on the charge sheet. Clients of AH's centre in the UAE included the Ministry of Labour and the Tawteen Council, according to the centre's website.