Nakheel fraud defendant dies in fall from 29th floor

A sales executive implicated in a Dh22 million fraud fell to his death from a Dubai hotel in an apparent suicide.

DUBAI // A sales executive implicated in a Dh22 million fraud fell to his death from a Dubai hotel in an apparent suicide, police said yesterday. Samir Rafik Shinwi, 31, a Canadian sales consultant of The World Islands, died in the early hours of Friday after plunging from the 29th floor of The Address hotel. He was charged in December with accepting bribes, embezzlement and causing losses of up to Dh11 million to Nakheel, the World Islands master developer. Mr Shinwi was granted bail on June 6 on Dh6 million bond and had to surrender his passport. He was waiting for the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance to reach a verdict. The court postponed its ruling, which was to have been released last Wednesday, after Judge Fahmy Mounir Fahmy ordered that closing arguments be presented again in September.

Mr Shinwi, who had lived in one of the hotel's residential studios since his release, was in an unstable psychological condition, a source said. The source said Mr Shinwi had consumed alcohol on the night of his death and had argued violently with his girlfriend. Hotel employees said the television in his flat was broken after a glass was thrown at it. "He was unstable after his release and has been threatening to end his life since his arrest," the source said.

Mr Shinwi's girlfriend, who decided to end their relationship that night, left the hotel about 1.30am. He then sent her text messages threatening to commit suicide if she did not return. Mr Shinwi then made a phone call to his sister in Canada before he fell to his death, police said. Police have been questioning hotel staff as well as Mr Shinwi's girlfriend, who had her passport confiscated until the investigation is completed. His mother, who was in Dubai and was due to travel the same evening, remains in the country, the source said. Mr Shinwi was arrested in March 2009 after investigations by Dubai Financial Audit Department suggested he embezzled Dh22 million along with his father and four other defendants. They include a Canadian female, LS, a partner at Group 7 Properties, a British businessman BS, Bangladeshi AS, and Russian SM. All were charged with presenting a bribe and damaging the interests of a government institution. The Briton, Bangladeshi and Russian have fled the country and are being tried in their absence.

Mr Shinwi was charged with accepting Dh16.6m in bribes from LS; Dh2.7m from AS; and Dh2.5m from SM. His father was implicated because the money allegedly was being funneled through his bank accounts. The embezzlement and bribery took place between March 25 and September 17, 2008, prosecutors say. A first lieutenant from the State Security department told prosecutors they were ordered to detain and investigate the defendant after the Dubai Financial Audit Department completed an audit.

"The defendant was found to have been selling plots on the World Island without following company procedures," the officer said. "We received information that large amounts were being deposited to the defendant's father's account. Monies were also being transferred from that account to pay Emaar for a villa that the defendant purchased." The defendant also was asking clients to pay an amount less than the amount needed to book plots and did not fill out booking forms for the company.

"A booking for a plot on the World Islands requires a 15 per cent payment and a booking agreement to be signed," said a State Security official. "The defendant though asked from five to 10 per cent only and never filled signed the agreements with the clients." The court will be officially notified of the death when it resumes hearing the case on September 15.