Former minister charged with betrayal of trust

A court hears claims a former minister of state bullied a woman into signing over her late brother's company.

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DUBAI// A former UAE minister of state threatened to throw the sister of his late Lebanese business partner into the sea if she did not sign away her late brother's IT company to him, the Dubai Misdemeanours Court heard yesterday. The former minister, his son, and two company managers are charged with betrayal of trust and unlawfully taking possession of money and property. In a two-and-a-half hour testimony, the late businessman's sister, M J, told the court Monday that she was deceived and bullied by the former minister and the manager of her late brother's company, S H, into signing a settlement agreement after her brother's death. In the agreement M J, who had a power of lawyer from her brother, handed total control of the company's UAE operations and projects to the former minister in exchange for retaining the company's overseas operations and projects. "They (the former minister and S H) had stopped paying salaries and expenses for the company's overseas branches, employees were telling me their livelihoods were at stake, contracts the company's overseas branches had signed with several governments abroad were also at stake," M J said. To save the company and the jobs of 350 employees, she decided to sign a settlement agreement in 2005 giving the former minister 100 per cent of the company, she told the court. M J said what prompted her to file a civil suit against the former minister three years later was her discovery of a signed document in her late brother's home safe dated 1998, which showed clearly that the former minister was only a salaried employee at the company. M J said the document showed that the former minister was paid Dh 600,000 annually for affixing his signature to the company's trade license. Lawyer for the defence, Sameer Jaafar, yesterday challenged the civil claimant's legal right to call witnesses in a criminal prosecution and in questions put to M J tried to establish that her late brother's property in Dubai was not concealed from her by the former minister as the property did not belong to the company in which the former minister claims to have a 51 per cent stake. Judge Hamad Abdullatif adjourned the trial until Nov 24 to hear witnesses called by the defence and by the civil claimant.