DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A businessman accused of stealing $1.5 billion while working in the United Arab Emirates could face extradition to the Gulf nation after being detained in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Khater Massaad at one point ran the sovereign wealth fund of the small Emirati sheikhdom of Ras al-Khaimah and had ties to the man who is now the emirate's ruler. He also helped set up a major ceramics business in the northern sheikhdom.
Ras al-Khaimah last month accused him of stealing while heading the fund. A report carried on Emirati state media alleged he fled the country after questions about his business activities arose in 2012.
A statement released to The Associated Press on Massaad's behalf Wednesday said he was taken into custody the previous day in the Red Sea city of Jiddah based on a UAE arrest warrant.
Massaad holds Swiss citizenship and has business interests in several countries, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. He strongly denies the charges against him.
His statement alleges the legal action is part of a long-running dispute with the emirate linked to his compensation while working there. He alleges the arrest warrant is based on a Ras al-Khaimah court decision that is "unsupported by any true evidence" and which was made before he was notified of the investigation.
The government of Ras al-Khaimah said Wednesday the warrant follows Massaad's conviction in absentia last October for fraud and other criminal activity. The sheikhdom is also seeking his arrest on additional charges of fraud and diversion of public funds in relation to a seaport project in the country of Georgia.
It said it will work with Saudi authorities to ensure he is returned to the Emirates to stand trial.