Local Man Files Lawsuit Against the Richest City in the World - NBC 6 South Florida

Local Man Files Lawsuit Against the Richest City in the World

One man is taking on the richest city in the world to get back his $18 million

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    A Fort Lauderdale insurance executive says he got royally scammed by the government of Abu Dhabi, the Persian Gulf emirate which happens to be one of the wealthiest places on earth. (Published Friday, Sept. 24, 2010)

    Big money lost, death threats, and a kidnapping in a land far, far away.

    Sounds like a Jason Bourne movie, but it's all in a lawsuit filed by a Fort Lauderdale insurance executive who says he got royally scammed by the government of Abu Dhabi, the Persian Gulf emirate which happens to be one of the wealthiest places on earth.

    But why does one man want to tackle an entire country?

    "It ruined my life, financially and psychologically," says Michael Weinberg, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

    As Weinberg explains it, he and his partners, Lebanese-American brothers Azzam and Amer Rustom, moved their families to Abu Dhabi in 2007 to set up a company called American Gulf Insurance, or AGI.

    The lawsuit says the investors were given the royal treatment, meeting high-ranking dignitaries including members of the royal family. One government minister, His Highness Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, allegedly agreed to sponsor the company.

    There's even a letter in the lawsuit offering congratulations from the Sheikh, which apparently was a little shaky.

    The complaint says the Sheikh allegedly put an official named Mohamed Bin Thaloob in charge of helping AGI get started. But first, investors had to put up that $18 million for an initial public stock offering. Then the money disappeared.

    "We started getting various approvals form the government, trademark approvals, license approvals, fee approvals which we now believe to a large extent the government people inside forged and were not real," Weinberg said. "After hiring investigators, we found that the people assigned to help us apparently stole all the money and forged all the paperwork and bank certificates."

    That's when things really got scary. Weinberg claims Bin Thaloob's men kidnapped his partner, Azzam Rustom, drove him around the desert for 12 hours, threatened to chop off his head, and told him he and his "Jew investors should forget about their money."

    The Americans went to the police, to government authorities, to Sheikh Hazza; they tried diplomatic channels, nothing worked.

    So now they've got this long-shot lawsuit with a goal in mind.

    "If nothing else," Weinberg says, "save other people from falling into the same trap because when you first go over, there they treat you like a king, they bring out the royalty, they can't do enough for you. And then when you get there, they don't know you when there's a problem."