Small emirate in UAE accuses businessman of embezzling $1.5B


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A small sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates on Monday accused a businessman who once had ties to its ruler of stealing $1.5 billion while serving as the head of its local sovereign wealth fund.

The allegations against Khater Massaad, who also helped Ras al-Khaimah create a major, eponymous ceramics company, came in an unusually strongly worded dispatch carried by the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency.

Massaad could not be immediately reached for comment. Cynthia Beudjekian, a marketing employee for one of Massaad’s businesses based in Lebanon, said his organization planned to respond to the allegations.

The WAM report described Massaad as fleeing the UAE “as soon as questions arose concerning his business activities in 2012.” It described him as continuing to run businesses in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia despite “corrupt dealings he has been involved in across the globe.”

It’s unclear why authorities decided to finally make a formal announcement about the case after four years. The WAM report said Massaad had “ended negotiations” with Ras al-Khaimah over the accusations.

Massaad at one point ran the Ras al-Khaimah Investment Authority, which the Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute estimates is worth $1.2 billion. The National, a state-owned newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, also described in him in 2008 as being an adviser to Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who now is the emirate’s ruler.

Ras al-Khaimah is one of seven sheikhdoms in the UAE. Overshadowed by oil-rich Abu Dhabi and the skyscrapers of Dubai, the small northern emirate borders Oman and is near the Strait of Hormuz.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jon-gambrell.

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