The Swiss and his opponent: Martin Bucher and Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa. Picture: PD
“Coffee to go” is a familiar concept. Less known is “gold to go”, at least in our part of the world. However, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, gold from an ATM machine was a reality. The company Gold AE had set up nine gold machines in the Emirates. Anyone who wanted to buy the precious metal could do so from the gold-colored ATM machines either with cash or credit card. Customers were thus able to purchase gold, but as opposed to walking around with a hot cup of purchased coffee, this gold was held by the company Gold AE on the customers behalf.
But there was an unexpected surprise awaiting the customers. The money has now missing and the company Gold AE collapsed. The website is no longer accessible and assets are missing without a trace. And not just a few dollar, but 30 million dollars have vanished. The hope that any customers will ever see their money again has disappeared along with the company.
The collapse of Gold AE has now become one of the largest fraud cases in the United Arab Emirates, the local media reports. In the middle of this mess is a close relative of the ruling family of Dubai – and the Swiss businessman Martin Bucher, who was arrested last December in Dubai. Although he was release shortly thereafter, his passport was confiscated and withheld for two months.
Threatened in the witness stand
Mr. Bucher’s nightmare began December 5, 2016, when he appear before the court of the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), as a witness against Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Sultan Shakhboot al Nahyan, a member of the royal family and cousin of the President of the United Arab Emirates and Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi. “I was aware that things could become dangerous,” Bucher admitted, but he did not let himself become intimidated.
During a break at the court hearing, the Mr. Bucher was threatened by security guards. On a public YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZyK02Xec5A of the proceedings, Bucher’s testimony describes the incident to the court. The judge tries to reassure Bucher: “As long as you are in the courtroom with me, you are safe.” But shortly after Bucher’s statement against the Sheikh, the 44-year-old Swiss citizen was arrested in front of the court house and taken to the police station in Dubai.
The Swiss Federal Foreign Office confirms this, stating that a Swiss citizen was held in the United Arab Emirates in December. Bucher informed us that he was held handcuffs and foot cuffs in various prisons for a period of three day. A criminal case was opened against him on the ground of “insults” against the Sheikh.
Gold AE is a subsidiary of Gold Holding, of which Mr. Bucher has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2012. The company specialized in the trading of precious metals and gold products and was having great success, according to Bucher and a business partners.
The “coup” of the sheikh
The founder and managing director of Gold Holding was Mohammad Abu Al Haj, and the assigned chairman was Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, who became the directors opponent. The fallout occurred on the evening of March 11, 2015 when the Sheikh convened a board meeting at Gold Holding. According to Mr. Bucher, the atmosphere at the meeting was very tense. It was decalred that the director Mohammed Abu Al Haj – who had not been informed of the meeting – was to be dismissed and replaced.
“Anyone in the board meeting that opposed the Sheikh’s decision was roughly removed by security personnel,” Bucher said. Martin Bucher was then appointed Head of the Financial Committee. Concerned for his own safety, Mr. Bucher flew back to Switzerland the following day and proceeded to study the financials and wrote a five-page financial report. “From then on my life was threatened,” Bucher said.
Shortly thereafter, Gold AE began to disintegrate. A Facebook page was created for customers to file complaints against Gold AE. “All my savings from the past 20 years are gone. I do not know what to do. Hopefully the authorities will take come action.”wrote one customer.
The Board of Directors newly appointed by the Sheikh blames the previous management for the collapse of the company. “We are doing all we can to repay the monies withdrawn by Gold AE under the questionable circumstances,” the new management wrote in a letter to customers, according to the newspaper “Arabian Business”. It was not until the new management took over Gold Holding that it became clear how baldly things had gone wrong at Gold AE.
The founder of Gold AE and former director, Mohammad Abu Al Haj, a Canadian-Jordanian citizen, sued the sheikh in the name of the Gold Holding company. According to the complainant, he accuses the sheikh of not having been compensated for his shares worth 10 million dollars. In addition, the sheikh is said to have misappropriated the gold of Gold AE. The case of the gold holding is still pending before the DIFC. The verdict is expected in 2017.
In spite of the newspapers (http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch) attempts to make contact with the accused, the Sheikh would not comment on the accusations against him.
Martin Bucher presently resides in Abu Dhabi, battling this ongoing case. “I am more than happy to be able to move freely again,” says the Swiss man. In the case of the arrest of Mr. Bucher and the difficult prison experiences in Dubai, the accusations brought against him were dropped and he was released. But according to Bucher, this is not enough. Customers were abused and the Sheikh needs to be held accountable. A law suit is pending and the drama continues.
Translation from Swiss article appearing on Tages Anzeiger:
Company Name: Gold Bank SAC
Contact Person: Martin Bucher
Country: United Arab Emirates