Start of the end game for the missing billions at NMC Health. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: ADCB has initiated criminal legal proceeding with the Attorney-General in Abu Dhabi against a number of individuals in relation to NMC Health Group, the UAE's largest healthcare operator.

"This action is consistent with the bank’s objective to protect its interests," the Abu Dhabi bank said in a statement, "ADCB continues to work closely with other creditors and the joint administrators to ensure continuity of NMC Health’s operations and a rapid recovery of the business."

ADCB did not, in its statement, indicate the names of the people against whom charges have been filed. Nor has the bank – which has an exposure of Dh3.6 billion to NMC Health – confirm how many people are involved.

The charges relate to a missing $4 billion plus that was taken out by NMC Health from local and international banks… and without any of that amount figuring in the company’s books.

UAE banks alone have a combined exposure of Dh10 billion. ‘Gulf News’ contacted NMC Health but has so far not ascertained who all come under the charges.

It is also not known whether all these members were ex-officials at NMC or had been associated with the company in other capacities. And also unclear at this moment is whether any former members of the Board of Directors have been named.

Most of the ex-management, including the former CEO Prashant Manghat, are reportedly outside the country. Dr. B.R. Shetty, NMC’s founder and until recently the chairman, has been in India for some time.

Crack the whip

The filing of criminal charges is the best indication that the internal investigations into the previous NMC management’s activities are winding down and it’s time for the local courts to take over.

It is not known whether separate charges will also be filed in the UK since NMC is listed on the London Stock Exchange. And it was on April 9 that the UK High Court appointed three administrators to take over the running of the hospital operator, effectively superseding the interim management that was led by Faisal Belhoul, who recently acquired 9 per cent in the company.

Second big corporate scandal

This is the second major corporate scandal to reach the Abu Dhabi courts/prosecution in recent times – the current management at Drake & Scull International, once one of the biggest names in the UAE construction sector, has filed charges against the previous management, including a former CEO, Khaldoun Tabari. He was arrested at Jordan International Airport on January 15.

Shot of confidence

Filing of charges by ADCB will be a booster shot for other lenders to NMC, banking sources said. Time will tell whether other banks will also be filing separate charges.

Expose all “wrongdoings” was a theme Belhoul had been insisting upon all through his stint as chairman at NMC. “It remains crucial that the investigation into any and all prior wrongdoings at the company is fully supported with relevant authorities,” said Belhoul, who emains an influential figure with his 9 per cent holding in NMC Health.

“I will do all in my power to support this process, working with the administration team and other partners.”