By Lubna Hamdan
Dubai-based Drake and Scull International has filed 15 criminal cases against former chief executive Khaldoun Tabari
Khaldoun Tabari, the former CEO of Dubai-based contractor Drake and Scull International (DSI), was arrested by Jordanian authorities at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman as he was catching a flight to the United Kingdom.
His arrest follows the issuing of an Interpol red notice against him on January 7, according to a senior DSI company representative who asked not to be named. Tabari was facing criminal charges filed by DSI in Jordan at the time of his arrest. He has since been released on bail after providing his passport as a personal guarantee.
DSI began reporting losses in 2015 after the decline in oil prices forced developers and clients to defer payments and delay projects. In 2018, it accused Tabari and former management of taking “deliberate and conscious” decisions to conceal millions in losses for the years 2009-2016. In November 2019, it said previous management hid around $817m in losses.
Last year, a report by the company said a 2016 restructuring plan was developed on “false information of backlog value, misrepresented projects' profitability and percentage of completion”. Tabari was the second biggest shareholder in the company before selling his stake to strategic shareholder Tabarak Investment in 2016.
DSI claimed Tabari and his daughter Zeina, also a former board director, owe the firm $272.3 million. Tabari hit back with a $1 million legal claim in DIFC Courts against the investment company, which he said breached an agreement to release him from any liabilities at DSI after the sale of the shares.
If extradited, Tabari, who has a travel ban in the United Arab Emirates, will face prosecution for 15 criminal complaints filed against him by DSI in the emirates, for which he may serve a minimum of 5-15 years, according to a DSI spokesperson who asked not to be named.
The UAE and Jordan are both signatory parties to the Riyadh Arab Convention on Judicial Co-operation.
Jordan has requested that case files pertaining to Tabari’s case be sent over for review in the next 60 days.
Following Tabari’s departure as CEO in 2016, DSI has replaced five chief executives and four chief financial officers. The company’s shares on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) have been suspended since November 2018 and it has faced liquidation of operations in India and Oman and the forfeit of a subsidiary in Qatar.
Al Tabari said in a statement sent to Arabian Business: “There had been no change in the status of my position in the UAE. The scenario that took place 2 years ago where the district attorney hired a committee to look at my position and the position of 9 people involved in the company… had not changed. Therefore the committee has not issued, who were supposed to speak to auditors to the board, to different parties involved which are 8-9 people, have not yet presented their report to the district attorney.
“However without any precedent, without me being called, without my lawyer being advised and without any notice directly to me to appear in front of the district attorney or to discuss the subject with my lawyer, we were surprised that the district attorney in Abu Dhabi issued a document to the Interpol to forbid me from leaving Jordan knowing that being in Jordan, the Jordanian government will not hand over their nationals to any foreign government.
"Therefore they [the Jordanian government] have asked the district attorney in Abu Dhabi to send them the files involving my case which involve all the people that I mentioned to you before and including me and therefore I have been advised by my government not to leave Jordan because they want to actually go into the allegations in Jordan.
“We’re in a positon where the committee has not issued their findings, the DA took it on his behalf to issue a notice for me and at the same time the government of Jordan will not allow this until they get all the documents from the UAE.
“I can assure you of one thing: I’m sitting normally in my country, there’s nowhere else I would rather be but in Jordan and I’m waiting for the next step. The Jordanian government is now investigating but my lawyer tells me if that’s what they want, they will have the trial [in Jordan]. There is no indictment for me in the UAE.”