First with Financial Comment from Arabia

Former DIFC governor arrested in fraud enquiry

with 4 comments

Former governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre, Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, has been detained for a week as a part of an investigation into alleged financial irregularities. He is the latest formerly high flying young national to suffer a sudden fall from grace.

Press reports today said no charges had been made at this point, and that the case has yet to be referred to the public prosecutor. Dr Omar was replaced abruptly last November by Emirates NBD Bank boss Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer without an official explanation.

Alleged financial irregularities

According to Gulf News this morning a former high-profile DIFC official, identified only as O.S. is being held for allegedly abusing his post as a public official for ‘financial irregularities amounting to about $13.6 million’. Reporters quickly unveiled his identity.

This is the latest in a string of arrests in the 18 months since the global financial crisis brought the Dubai real estate boom to a sudden stop. As Warren Buffett once famously commented, ‘it is only when the tide goes out that you see who has been swimming naked’.

All financial booms attract charlatans and offer the opportunity to make fast money from what may later be shown to be illegal actions. Yet it is also tragic to see brilliant careers ruined and particularly young stars like Dr Omar.

He succeeded in making two Dubai business free zones stunning commercial real estate successes: the Dubai Internet City, and since 2004 the Dubai International Financial Centre. But of course the international reputation that Dr Omar acquired in the process just makes this investigation all the more embarrassing to Dubai.

Whizz kids out

The fate of Dr Omar and other young Emirati leaders who were perhaps promoted too fast and too young in the boom will cast a shadow over the prospects for the next generation. Already the swing back to older hands is evident with the traditional merchant families of Dubai in the ascendant, and they will inevitably have to lean heavily on expatriates for advice.

The next generation will have a harder time earning the trust of their elders, and will face a longer climb up the ladder. That might actually work out better in the long run. But for those involved it will not be so much fun nor as easy. Experience and grey hair will count for more than it has in the past decade but everyone gets old eventually.


Written by Peter Cooper

March 24, 2010 at 11:56 am

4 Responses

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  1. Never judge a book by it’s cover. What happens behind the four walls only Allah knows, and he is the only one to see it all, who is innocent and who is a cheat? Who is a fraud and who is not?

    Zarmeen Sipra

    March 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

  2. For all of those who have ever worked with or had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman you can attest to the fact that he has always conducted himself with the highest level of honesty and integrity. Dr. Omar has always focused on helping other people and worked hard to ensure Dubai excelled without asking anything for himself other than what was given to him. Its unfortunate that when times are hard it is easy to place the blame or judge an innocent Samaritan.

    mohammed ali

    March 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

  3. Wheather or not he’ll be found innocent or guilty, I cannot view emiratization in the same way I used to 10-11 years ago. While I do believe U.A.E citizens have a right to hold positions of strategic importance and run their own government entities, I do believe that the recent string of execs and a minister who have been caught for “irregularities”, is a message that perhaps the authorities need to rethink the policy of emirtization and what it was set out to acheive. Giving positions of importance and trust to people based on just their nationality and throwing cash at them is a recipie for disaster, and I can only see more detentions like this in the future.


    March 25, 2010 at 12:18 am

  4. Mr. Cooper,
    Do you foresee the leadership of Dubai becoming cognizant of the threat the ‘young financial turks” pose (along the lines of the current American fiasco)?

    If so do you have any concern that Dubai will become alerted to the problem too late, precipitating an Argentinian/Greek/Icelandic/American(inafewyears) style crash?

    I ask in an effort to obtain pertinent relocation information. The band is playing on while U.S.S. Titanic is listing badly to the starboard.

    Thank you for your efforts with Arabianmoney. I’ve encouraged many of my associates to stay current on your site. Thanks.

    Ed Note: The Dubai authorities seem now on top of this problem and we will see a recovery in my view.

    Base Bleed

    March 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm

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