Defendant in 'wallet' case charged with defrauding 8,000 of Dh400m

The chief defendant in the fraud known as the case of the "non-existent wallet" appears in court today.

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ABU DHABI // The chief defendant in the fraud known as the case of the "non-existent wallet" will appear in the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance today, charged with cheating 8,000 investors out of an estimated Dh400 million (US$108.9m). The number of people allegedly defrauded through the investment scam, led by A  Q Qublan, has risen from about 2,500 to more than 8,000 since prosecutors began registering victims in July. M  A Qublan and K  A Qublan, the chief defendant's brothers, were freed on bail after repaying Dh400,000 each, having their assets seized and agreeing to pay back a large portion of the funds allegedly stolen. After conducting its investigation and registering claims from victims, the Abu Dhabi Prosecutor's Office has filed charges against a further 16 individuals who allegedly acted as brokers between the chief defendants and the victims, bringing the number of those being prosecuted to 92. The Public Prosecutor is asking that anyone else with a claim against A  Q Qublan come forward and register with his office within a week. "This is a complex and time-consuming case and must move forward. The deadline for anyone else who has a claim against the chief defendant will be Sept 11," a representative of the prosecution said. According to a source in the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, there have been a number of developments over the past month as the investigation conducted by the Abu Dhabi Police, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Central Bank moved forward. "An additional Dh10m has been recovered over the past month, bringing the total amount recovered to Dh260m. In addition, a further 16 people were arrested and are facing prosecution." A second investigation committee comprising police representatives, the Public Prosecutor's Office and a legal estimator are compiling a list of assets owned by the suspects. "All their assets will be auctioned off and the funds transferred to an account set up for the purpose of reimbursing the victims," the source said. Among assets seized are 33 cars, which will be auctioned off in the next few days. "A list of victims is being compiled and the brokers will pay back the victims in order to secure a waiver from prosecution. When a settlement is reached between a broker and a victim, it will be registered by the notary public," the representative said. The investigation began in April when the police and Public Prosecutor's Office received numerous complaints from residents and Emiratis that they had invested various amounts of money with an individual who was promising them a 30 to 40 per cent return on their investment on a monthly basis. The police arrested A  Q Qublan, three of his brothers and a number of assistants and charged them with fraud after it was learnt that they had issued more than 5,000 allegedly bogus cheques to investors as a guarantee. Some victims claimed that they received their first monthly dividends, which encouraged them to sell property and cars to invest with A  Q Qublan as well as urge their friends and family to invest.