Dubai regulator imposes $1.7m fine on former Abraaj CFO, Ashish Dave

Dubai: The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), the independent regulator of Dubai Financial Centre on Wednesday published a Decision Notice against Ashish Bhrugu Dave, a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Abraaj Group, imposing a penalty of $.1.7 million (Dh6.24 million)

The notice prohibits and restricts Dave from performing any function in connection with the provision of financial services in or from the DIFC.

Dave was the Abraaj Group CFO from September 2008 to September 2013 and then again from February 2017 to March 2018. During both periods, he was authorised by the DFSA to perform licensed functions as the Finance Officer and licensed director of Abraaj Capital Limited (ACLD), a DFSA Authorised Firm.

On June 8, 2021, the DFSA decided to take enforcement action against Dave for being knowingly involved in breaches of DIFC legislation and the DFSA’s Rules by Abraaj Investment Management Limited (AIML), a Cayman entity not authorised by the DFSA, and ACLD.

Unauthorised financial services

According to DFSA AIML, carried out unauthorised financial services in and from the DIFC and actively misled and deceived investors in Abraaj funds; and ACLD, failed to maintain adequate capital resources, deceived the DFSA about its compliance with various legislation and rules, and was knowingly concerned in AIML's unauthorised financial services activities.

"It is central to our regulatory objectives to hold to account those who are at the centre of wrong-doing by Firms. The wrong-doing by AIML and ACLD was of the highest order of seriousness. As the Group CFO, Dave was in a unique position with visibility over the financial affairs of the group,” said Peter Smith, acting Chief Executive of the DFSA.

A DFSA statement said Dave was knowingly involved in AIML misleading and deceiving investors over the use of monies in Abraaj funds. In particular, Dave was aware that approximately $200 million was taken from the Abraaj Growth Markets Healthcare Fund (AGHF) and used for the Abraaj Group’s working capital or other investment commitments.

Dave is accused of orchestrating and executing actions to deceive auditors and investors as to the actual cash balance in AGHF’s bank accounts by temporarily borrowing monies for the purpose of producing misleading bank balance confirmations and misleading financial statements.

According to DFSA statement he was also knowingly involved in AIML carrying out unauthorised activity through his actions in the Abraaj investment cycle from signing Investment Management Agreements to distributing proceeds to investors.

The regulator said Dave was knowingly involved in ACLD contraventions by authorising temporary cash transfers at certain reporting period end dates and signing management representation letters to report falsely that ACLD was in compliance with its Capital Resources requirements. As ACLD’s Finance Officer, Mr Dave was directly responsible for ACLD’s compliance with the DFSA’s capital Rules.

“He (Dave) had the opportunity to expose and bring to a halt AIML and ACLD’s breaches. Instead, Mr Dave became actively involved in the deception of Abraaj stakeholders. Our actions against other former senior Abraaj staff members are on-going and in the final stages of the disciplinary process,” said Smith.

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