UAE - Fourteen out of 43 people that were charged of embezzling over Dh4 million from a major Dubai hotel group have been acquitted.

The massive embezzling scheme took place over two years, according to the court records. During this time, the accused - which included private companies and former employees of the hotel group - misappropriated funds from the company.

The trial included defendants from Egypt, Lebanon, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Austria, Kenya, Afghanistan and Hong Kong, aged between 31 and 56, working in the group's accounting and information technology departments.

How it happened

Between October 2016 and August 2018, the accused employees allegedly agreed to transfer sums of cash from their employer's bank accounts to other companies' accounts.

Prosecutors said that in order to do so, they forged the IBAN numbers in payment receipts to divert the destination of more than 26 bank transfers. After receiving payments, they would delete IBAN and account numbers of the companies and add legitimate account numbers to avoid being caught.

Discovery of the crime

An internal audit at the hotel group showed discrepancies between the bank statements and the papers issued by its employees in the accounting department.

Dubai authorities launched an investigation into the matter, and the defendants were charged with multiple counts of embezzlement, money laundering, forgery, and falsifying documents. The defendants who worked at the IT department were accused of breach of trust, by allowing their colleagues (the other defendants) to access confidential data of private and public establishments on the group's electronic system.

On April 19 last year, seven defendants were jointly fined Dh4.6 million and ordered to repay the same amount to the group. Two defendants were sentenced to a year in prison to be followed by deportation. The rest of the defendants were sentenced to one year in prison to be followed by deportation and were fined Dh150,000 each and jointly fined Dh4.4 million, and additionally ordered to pay back Dh4.4 million to the group.

The companies of the accused were each fined Dh200,000.

Verdict appealed

Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed from Al Rowaad Advocates appealed the verdict at the Dubai Court of Appeal. She said, "My client joined work in the group in October 2017 and was on probation period until March 2018, which is proof he was not involved in the incident which the prosecutor said began in October 2016."

She added, "Being a new recruit, he wouldn't have possibly known the inaccurate accounts in the system and discrepancies it had."

Prosecutors charged her client with participating in forging 26 electronic documents and registering fake accounting data on the employer's accounting e-system.

"Based on documents provided by the group, my client was not among the employees who were authorised to log into the accounting system," she said in court.

After several hearings, the Dubai Appeal Court revoked the sentence against her client and 13 other defendants, and they were acquitted of all charges.

The verdict still stands against the remaining defendants.

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