Former Lagoons boss jailed after court review

The former chief executive of Sama Dubai's Lagoons project was jailed and fined Dh5.8 million after his acquittal was overturned.

DUBAI // The former chief executive of Sama Dubai's Lagoons project was jailed yesterday for three years and ordered to pay Dh5.8 million (US$790,000) in fines and reimbursements after the Appeal Court overturned his previous acquittal on bribery charges. Three other former executives of the company, convicted in the same corruption case, had their jail sentences increased from one to three years.

Last July, the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted AM, a 42-year-old Emirati, of breaching his duties by asking a client for five apartments worth a total Dh2.7m and Dh200,000 cash as a bribe. However, in November prosecutors asked for him to be retried. They claimed that he had been acquitted only because he was originally tried as a private employee. The prosecutor, Abdel al Memari, had earlier called for AM to be tried as a public official, saying Sama Dubai was part of Dubai Holding, which was owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Had AM been tried as an official he would have been legally required to declare the commissions he received, including the apartments and Dh200,000. Sources close to the case said it was in light of this claim that the verdict had been reviewed. According to legal experts, the development could have significant repercussions for several fraud cases going through Dubai's courts, as many of the defendants could similarly be considered to be public officials.

The Sama Dubai executives who had their sentences extended were: MA, a 41-year-old Emirati, the sales manager; NQ, a 23-year-old Emirati, a sales adviser; and MS, a 28-year-old executive. They were ordered to return Dh4.85m between them, which they had taken in bribes, and pay jointly the same amount in fines. They were initially convicted by the Court of First Instance of illegally selling and reselling land belonging to Sama Dubai after accepting Dh1.35m in bribes.

AH, the former property development director for Damac, who was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to one year in jail for paying bribes to the defendants, was yesterday acquitted on appeal. The Lagoons project, estimated to cost Dh80 billion, consists of 350 plots in a waterfront area created by expanding Dubai Creek. The development is scheduled to include four buildings designed to look like flames.

wissa@thenational.ae

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