Bank Al Khair ex-CEO convicted of embezzlement

DUBAI, June 28 Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:24pm IST

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DUBAI, June 28 (Reuters) - A Bahraini court has sentenced the former chief executive of Bank Al Khair in absentia to four years in jail for embezzlement and squandering the bank's funds, the Islamic lender said.

It said the Criminal Court of Bahrain also convicted Majid Al-Refai at a hearing on Tuesday of destroying bank documents as well as preventing shareholders and authorised entities from accessing bank records.

Rifai said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Thursday that he was aware of the verdict and denied all charges.

"Mr Al Refai was unable to travel to Bahrain to defend himself due to the existence of a travel ban and was tried in absentia. He vehemently denies all the malicious charges against him and will continue to fight to clear his name," it said.

Bahrain imposed a travel ban on Refai but he was already out of the country at the time. Refai, a Kuwaiti citizen, was believed to be in Kuwait this week.

The ruling was the third and most significant against the former chief executive since inquiries into alleged wrongdoing started in mid-2010. Refai left the bank that year over what banking sources said were strategy disputes with the board.

The bank said last year an investigation by consultancy Deloitte concluded that Refai committed 58 criminal offences, including misappropriating bank funds.

Refai denied the allegations of financial crimes made by the lender, saying that Deloitte had not disclosed its "personal interest" in the investigation.

The court also sentenced Al-Refai's associate, Falah Al-falah, to a year in prison for involvement in misappropriation and dissipation of bank funds, Bank Al Khair said.

The sharia-compliant lender, formerly Unicorn Investment Bank, operates in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey. (Reporting By Mirna Sleiman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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