Abu Dhabi tourism official sued by SEC


NEW YORK – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued an Abu Dhabi tourism official on Monday over suspicious trades in Canada’s Nova Chemicals Corp. prior to the announcement of its acquisition by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co. in February.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleges that Khaled Mohammed Sharif Al Ayed Al Hashemi, the administration director of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, purchased 120,000 shares of Nova in a U.S.-based online brokerage account between Feb. 6 and Feb. 20 while in possession of material, nonpublic information regarding the transaction. Hashemi then sold those shares when the merger was announced Feb. 23, the SEC said.

Hashemi, who allegedly realized profits of $458,760, allegedly purchased more than 50% of his Nova common stock position on the last trading day before the announcement, the SEC said.

“Hashemi’s conduct on the morning of February 23, 2009, suggests that he had advance notice of an event that would cause a substantial increase in the price of Nova common stock,” the SEC said.

On Monday, a federal judge granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order freezing Hashemi’s assets in the U.S., said Elaine Greenberg, a SEC lawyer.

Hashemi didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Prior to the opening of stock exchanges in Toronto and New York and minutes before the announcement, Hashemi allegedly placed several limit orders to sell 10,000 shares of Nova stock at prices that “significantly exceeded” its previous closing price, the SEC said.

Later that day, he canceled those limit orders and sold all 120,000 shares through new limit orders at prices that were close to or at prevailing market prices, yielding a 270% return, the SEC said.

His online brokerage account held more than $633,000 as of July 22, including illicit proceeds from the Nova trades, the SEC said.

Hashemi also is or was an information technology manager at Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Co., a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, the SEC said.