'Fraudster' in court fight over property

Abid al Boom is accused of running a bogus investment portfolio and duping thousands of investors out of Dh847 million.

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DUBAI // Abid al Boom, the Emirati businessman accused of running a bogus investment portfolio and duping thousands of investors out of Dh847 million (US$230m), is challenging in court a temporary committee's decision to confiscate his passport and 14 of his properties. Mr al Boom's lawyer, Salem al Shaali, is arguing that the committee exceeded its brief, which he maintains was only to appoint an external auditor to examine Mr al Boom's company accounts. The confiscation decision was taken nine months before Mr al Boom's arrest in July 2008. The civil suit was in its third hearing yesterday before the Dubai Civil Court, during which the respondents listed in the lawsuit - three local government departments who together formed the temporary committee - presented documents to the court supporting their defence. The respondents are listed in the case as Dubai Police, the Dubai Department of Economic Development and the Dubai Financial Control Department. The temporary committee recommended a general liquidation of Mr al Boom's properties and assets and that he, his partners and those working with him be referred to the Public Prosecutor. The Dubai Attorney General, Issam al Humaidan, representing the respondents, presented a memorandum to the civil court on Nov 22 last year stating that the temporary committee took a precautionary step in confiscating Mr al Boom's passport and properties. Mr al Shaali refuted that argument, stating that according to the civil procedures law only a judge had the authority to confiscate a passport. He further pointed out that the temporary committee had not taken any steps to liquidate his client's assets or pay back investors, but had moved only to charge his client with deception and fraud. At a news conference in August, prosecutors pointed to thousands of depositors, including many on fixed and low incomes, who had lost their life savings in Mr al Boom's bogus investment portfolio. Prosecutors said total assets and monies belonging to Mr al Boom that were seized in the UAE barely cover 15 per cent of what he owes investors. "We have received to date complaints from 3,458 depositors and counting," the Deira First District Chief Prosecutor, Yousef Foulaz, said in August. "We have referred the case to the Dubai Rulers Court where auditors will examine Mr al Boom's accounts to determine where all the money has gone." After receiving numerous complaints from depositors in Mr al Boom's investment portfolio early in 2008, Mr Humaidan, ordered Mr al Boom's arrest along with eight others, including an African business partner, an Emirati business partner and Mr al Boom's brother, Khalid. Mr Humaidan also ordered the closure of the offices of Al Boom Holding LLC, and Abid Al Boom Management and Development Properties, the suspension of trading in shares owned by the accused and the freezing of all assets belonging to them, including any real estate and bank accounts held by the accused, to secure investors' rights. Judge Ismail Mohammed al Husseini adjourned the case until Feb 19. hbathish@thenational.ae