The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has today published a decision notice against Mr Ashish Bhrugu Dave (Mr Dave), a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Abraaj Group, imposing a penalty of US$1.7m (AED 6.24m).
The notice also prohibits and restricts Dave from performing any function in connection with the provision of financial services in or from the DIFC in the future. 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.
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," Peter Smith, acting Chief Executive of the DFSA.
On 8 June 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. In particular:
· 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.
The DFSA said that Dave was" knowingly involved in AIML misleading and deceiving investors over the use of monies in Abraaj funds". In particular, he was aware that approximately US$200m was taken from the Abraaj Growth Markets Healthcare Fund (AGHF) and used for the Abraaj Group's working capital or other investment commitments.
He then proposed, orchestrated, and executed 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.
Dave 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 DFSA statement said. As early as 2009, Dave failed to properly address concerns raised with him about AIML engaging in unauthorised activities in and from the DIFC.
It added that 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, Dave was directly responsible for ACLD's compliance with the DFSA's capital Rules.
The fine imposed reflects the seriousness of the offences and is based on Mr Dave's earnings from the Abraaj Group.
Peter Smith, acting Chief Executive of the DFSA, said: "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, Mr Dave was in a unique position with visibility over the financial affairs of the group.
"He 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 is on-going and are in the final stages of the disciplinary process."
A copy of the DFSA's Decision Notices can be found in the Regulatory Actions section of the DFSA website.