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NMC hires ex-FBI head Louis Freeh to probe short seller Carson Block's claims

Mark Shapland

Troubled NMC has brought in former FBI man Louis Freeh to investigate allegations made by US hedge fund manager Carson Block.

The hospitals operator, the biggest private healthcare provider in the United Arab Emirates, was the victim of a short selling attack by Block’s firm Muddy Waters in December.

Block published a damning report over NMC Health’s accounting practices, claiming its finances pointed to possible “fraudulent asset values and the theft of company assets”.

Freeh and his risk management company FGIS has been picked to examine and report on the claims. Jonathan Bomford, chairman of the Independent Review Committee set-up by NMC, said Freeh will “provide a completely independent, unbiased, comprehensive and transparent report that will address all of these allegations”.

The former federal judge and FBI director is a controversial character, who was last year appointed by Israeli businessman Dan Gertler to lobby the US Treasury on his behalf.

Gertler was placed on a US sanctions list in 2018 and had his assets frozen, having been accused of getting rich from corrupt mining deals in Africa. Freeh also lobbied on behalf of Kuwait’s KGL Investment.

The appointment raised eyebrows, as a City law firm would typically conduct such a probe.

One analyst said: “Clearly NMC don’t believe the accusations but it has to convince the market. A big name sends a message that the company is not guilty.”

The shares, battered by Muddy’s attack, rose to the summit of the FTSE 100 today, up 7% at 1541p.

The company’s shareholder list has been shaken up in the last month, after two of its controlling investors — Saeed Bin Butti and his relative Khalifa Bin Butti — sold a 15% stake to repay debt from Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank.