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Tue 16 Sep 2008 06:08 AM

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Former minister denies fraud charges

High profile defendant vows to clear his name as 'unjustified' fraud case is adjourned until Oct 20.

A former UAE minister who was dismissed has denied fraud charges at a court hearing in Dubai.

"There is no case in the first place. It is a contrived and unjustified case," former state minister Khalifa Bkhit Al-Falasi said before appearing in court on Monday along with three alleged associates.

Judge Hamad Abdullatif Abdulgawad read out the charges of "breach of trust and fraud" against the ex-official and the three others - Falasi's son, a US citizen of Arab descent and an Indian national - in seizing a software company.

All denied the charges, which relate to a business association preceding Falasi's appointment as state minister in February.

The case was brought by a Lebanese businesswoman who accused Falasi of "breaching the trust of her family's business" following the death of her brother, who was his partner.

"This is an issue that was settled in 2005 when the partners ended the partnership and signed agreements," defence lawyer Hussein al-Jaziri said.

"Even assuming there is a dispute, it is a civil, not criminal, issue," he said.

Falasi, who is free on bail, was dismissed in July from the cabinet without an official explanation, shortly after the public prosecution pressed charges against him.

His trial, which was adjourned to October 20, comes amid a crackdown on corruption by the government of Dubai, a Gulf business hub aiming to rival global financial centres like London and New York.

Several executives are being detained or questioned over alleged fraud in a number of high-profile companies. But Jaziri said Falasi's case was a private matter which had nothing to do with ongoing corruption probes.

None of the executives currently being questioned for purported fraud or bribery, including both Emiratis and foreigners, have yet gone on trial.