Khaldoun Al Tabari Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Drake & Scull International financial saga could be entering a decisive phase with an indictment being served in Jordan against the founder and former CEO of the engineering major.

The Public Prosecutor in Amman has filed against Khaldoun Saeed Al Tabari as well as Zeina Khaldoun Al Tabari and Saleh Mustafa Muradweij on "charges that include the felony of committing fraud in buying, selling, or managing movable and immovable state or public authority funds", according to a statement from DSI.

It was in 2019 that the Drake & Scull issue - or the scale of it - came into public domain, as the management revealed that it was sitting on accumulated losses of Dh5 billion plus. And that funds were diverted by erstwhile members of the management.

A statement from Al Tabari is awaited.

Nature of the charges

The indictment against Al Tabari and his daughter Zeina relate to "squandering" and appointing an external legal advisor without approval from Drake & Scull's Board Of Directors. The company then ended up paying "exaggerated" legal fees to the advisor. Investigations later revealed this indivdual was not a lawyer or legal advisor.

The indictment also accused the Tabaris of disbursing "unjustified" sums of money to an entity, in addition to paying commission for the purchase of immovable property in Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah.

The indictment calls for them to stand trial before the Criminal Court of Amman, which has the "authority, jurisdiction and right to weigh evidence and impose deterrent punishment against the accused, provided that they are also tried for the remaining misdemeanours in the indictment before the same court".

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Pursuit of justice

This follows a request from the UAE’s Public Funds Prosecution, which had accused the former Drake & Scull CEO of "several transgressions, namely, appropriating funds from a public joint stock company; squandering funds; profiteering and mismanagement, along with other financial crimes committed during his tenure as the company’s CEO and vice-chairman of the Board of Directors.

The accusations were revealed following internal investigations conducted by the current Drake & Scull management. The Central Bank of the UAE had in a parallel move directed banks operating in the UAE to freeze Al Tabari’s accounts – as well as those of his family members – as per the decision of the Abu Dhabi Attorney-General.

Departure and stoppages
It was in 2018 that Khaldoun Al Tabari left the UAE. According to Drake & Scull, he was arrested at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman as he was departing Jordan to the UK on January 7, 2020 after Interpol issued a Red Notice.
This followed 15 criminal complaints filed against him by Drake & Scull, accusing him of financial transgressions valued at more than Dh4 billion.

Shock waves

This was enough to send ripples through the local construction sector as well as the wider corporate landscape in the UAE. Drake & Scull is now in negotiations with its creditors and lenders to try and come up with a solution that will give it more time to pay off its debts.

The company is expected to give a status update on the financial restructuring plans in the coming days. If those plans are met, this would be one of the biggest corporate turnaround stories in the UAE, on par with what's happening at NMC Healthcare in Abu Dhabi.