Dubai gets tough on fraud
Those found guilty of corruption now face heavier prison sentences. But Kipp readers are divided over whether enough is being done to tackle financial crime.
April 6, 2010 1:43 by kippreport
Bribery, corruption, money laundering, forgery, embezzlement, deception, unauthorized transactions, abuse of position, insider dealing and fraud… The fact that there are so many terms for financial crime is, perhaps, indicative of the complexity of proving wrongdoing when such cases come to court.
Dubai has certainly witnessed its fair share of financial crime. In fact, it has probably seen more than its fair share of it. But now, at least, something is being done.
It emerged yesterday that Abdel Salam al-Merri, the former chief executive of Sama Dubai’s Lagoons project in Dubai, has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined AED5.8 million in penalties and reimbursements for accepting bribes.
The National newspaper called this a “landmark ruling”, which could lead to convicted fraudsters being handed tougher sentences in the future. This is because al-Merri, a 42-year-old Emirati, had previously been tried, and acquitted, as a private employee. But in the most recent hearing, he was tried as a public official, which can lead to harsher penalties.
“A private employee convicted of corruption would face between one month and three years in jail whereas a public official would face between three and 15 years,” The National reported.
In private, some people had doubted whether al-Merri would be brought to justice. But as the slew of convictions for corruption has shown, Dubai appears to be cracking down on financial crimes, pursuing cases against alleged wrongdoers no matter what their position, nationality, or status.
In April 2009, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said “there is no room for corruption and the corrupt” in the emirate. “In all corruption cases, people are not only prosecuted and punished, administrative and legal holes that they exploited to commit their crimes are plugged,” he said. “No one in the Emirates is above the law and accountability.”
And so it has proved. Cases of alleged corruption and other financial crime have emerged at government-linked companies such as Nakheel, Tamweel and Dubai Islamic Bank. High-profile executives such as Omar bin Sulaiman, the former governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre, have been questioned by investigators. Suspects have been successfully extradited to the UAE. And regulators have shown their teeth, not least in the investigation into the founders of luxury jeweler Damas.
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