Jailed British property developer Safi Qurashi had the remaining four-and-a-half years of his seven-year sentence quashed by Dubai’s highest court today and his family is optimistic he will be released on bail ahead of a final hearing later this month.
Qurashi, who rose to prominence when he paid US$60m for a manmade island in the shape of Great Britain on Nakheel’s ‘The World’, was convicted to seven years in jail in 2010 for allegedly bouncing three cheques.
Following two expert reviews of the evidence, Dubai’s Attorney General referred the three cases against Qurashi back to the courts, with a recommendation that the judgments be reconsidered.
At a hearing of Dubai’s Cassation Court, the emirate’s highest, the judgment in relation to the first two cheques was quashed.
While Qurashi has another hearing later this month in relation to the third cheque, which the Attorney General has also recommended be revisited, his family is optimistic he may be released on bail later on Monday in advance of this final court appearance.
The London-born property developer, who moved to Dubai in 2004, operated mainly as a middle man for a number of deals at the Dubai Waterfront project and entered into a joint venture to develop the Monaco and Iraq islands on ‘The World’.
In both deals, he forwarded security cheques to his partners, which he claimed should have been returned to him on completion of the transactions. Instead, these were cashed, leading to Qurashi’s arrest and imprisonment for cheque fraud.
Two of the cheques, which the Cassation Court ruled on today, referred to the Dubai Waterfront case. These were the subject of the first expert review submitted to the Attorney General.
Qurashi claimed the fact the expert report concluded the cheque should have been returned to him demonstrated that he could not have bounced the cheque, a view which was endorsed by today’s ruling.
In an English translation of the second report, relating to the Moscow and Iraq islands on the ‘The World’, it was stated the security cheque in this case should also have been returned to Qurashi as he had ordered the bank to stop it and had filed a complaint against the holder with Dubai Police.
“The cheque was returned by the drawee bank due to 'stopping of collection' as the drawer alleged that the cheque was stolen… and that [Qurashi] opened a police case against the payee with the charge of stealing the cheque,” the expert report says.
“The expert deems that [Qurashi’s partner] is not entitled to Cheque #788, amounting to AED7,191,175.00, accordingly the same shall be returned to [Qurashi],” the report concluded.
“If that is what the expert has concluded and that cheque has to be returned… well, it is that cheque I am serving a three-year sentence for… If it is supposed to be returned to me then I couldn’t have bounced it,” Qurashi said last month.
With the Cassation Court due to revisit the judgment on the third cheque later this month, it is possible Qurashi may have to remain in custody until a verdict is delivered in this case.
Qurashi’s family is currently seeking bail ahead of his final hearing later this month.