The Dubai Court of First Instance yesterday ordered the release of 16 defendants, charged with manipulating the validity of foodstuff, on a bail of Dh1,600,000 at Dh100,000 for each, ...

By Mohsen Rashid

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Published: Tue 29 Nov 2005, 1:29 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:09 PM

provided their passports and those who bailed them out are deposited with the authorities until the case is finally decided. The lawsuit, however, was adjourned to December 5 in order to announce all the witnesses.

The hearing yesterday listened to the witnesses in the case — municipality inspectors and policemen — authorised to report the violation and seize the items. Since none of the witnesses was present, the court announced the adjournment of the hearing. The hearing opened with the recitation of verses from the Holy Quran and prophetic sayings (Hadith) on fraud and dishonesty, pointing out to the seriousness of the issue. “This,” the Public Prosecution said, “is a serious matter involving the unhealthy phenomenon of defrauding foodstuff.” The Public Prosecution warned that it will hit with an iron fist whoever does such an act.

The representative of the Public Prosecution said the case began when the competent body was tipped off of on the issue, and it swung into action by raiding warehouses affiliated to the indicted company. The personnel of the body concerned saw and found the workers changing the expired validity dates of milk bags with new dates. The representative of the Public Prosecution spoke at length on the procedures of arrest and the adverse and negative impact on the national economy, as the excellent work Dubai has done by being awarded international quality certificates should not be marred by such an act. The evidence of the prosecution said an analysis of the samples taken from the food items showed that all the tested samples were unfit for human consumption.

In reply to the statement of the public prosecution, the defence lawyers said the former should have given the same importance to the evidence and documents submitted by the defence, which confirmed that the milk — the subject matter of the case — was valid. The lawyers of the defence said that the municipality is the same body which issues health certificates for exporting milk, and it had said that the milk was valid. The defence said that the validity period of the milk is four years, but inside the country, it is permitted to be sold within one year. Moreover, the repacking of the milk is permissible as there were many health certificates issued by the Dubai Municipality that confirmed the product’s validity for two years.

The defence said the company is prestigious and exports milk to 27 countries worldwide. Penalising the defendants by sending them to jail on the first day of the case, and suspending 24 trade and industrial licences of individuals belonging to the family involved in the case is legally unacceptable, as the crime of fraud here was non-existent because it is not allowed to export unless the consent of the civic service authority is obtained.

The defence called for the release of the defendants by bail on the basis of the principle that the accused were innocent unless their crime is proved. The defence also called for taking a sample from the seized items for testing in a neutral and authenticated laboratory inside or outside the country. The defence rejected the proposal of testing the milk in a municipality lab as the civic body is a party to the case.

The company accused of messing up the expiry date of the foodstuff owns 170 trade agencies with their financial value estimated at Dh2.3 billion. The defendant also deals in Dh60 million every year, and is regarded as one of nine largest importers. It supplies 1,200 tonnes of foodstuff to 48 canteens every day, and has been operating in the market for more than 70 years.

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