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18.06.2009 – The Fizzling ACI Towers from Boris Becker, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher

Alternative Capital Invest (ACI), Germany‘s first and biggest mover in offerings of property investments funds in Dubai, went now in a sorrowing financial swirl. Senior head Uwe Lohmann (64) has to fear meanwhile daily that his son and head of Dubai operations, Robin Lohmann (34), has to move his presence in Arabia into a Dubai jail due to financial debts. Huge funds for projected towers with the branding partners Boris Becker, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher seem to be trickled somewhere in Dubai, the projects appear bankrupt.

The Germany based Financial Intelligence Service http://www.gomopa.net gained from four independent sources in Dubai that Ferrari and Maybach driver Robin Lohmann shortly has been taken in Dubai into custody for one night. The junior chief of ACI had furthermore to deposit his passport with the Dubai authorities. He shall not be allowed to leave the country before financial debts of ACI Dubai are finally settled.

Based on own publication, ACI since 2004 did accumulate EUR 300m (AED 1.5bn) from more than 8,000 private investors in Germany and Austria only. Purpose of the funds was the project development of residential and commercial property in Dubai in a volume of EUR 600m (EUR 3bn).

Up to date, only construction pits with unclear ownership situations are existing. Within the total of seven separate investment funds entities, independent external auditing and control never has been settled. Another managerial from ACI, formerly employed at Dynasty Zarooni, additionally shall have collected huge sums among Arab private investors. Dubai’s public prosecution is in process of investigation against ACI and its entire management due to suspected fraud and embezzlement of funds. The former DZ manager as well as most of ACI’s other managerial meanwhile left the country. Except Robin Lohmann, he now frequently has to show up at Dubai Public Prosecution.

According to ArabianBusiness, Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority RERA is investigating as well against ACI due to bounced cheques, fronting and breaking of Dubai’s Escrow Laws. Robin’s father, Uwe Lohmann (operating from Guetersloh, Germany) meanwhile tries to calm down the more than 8,000 German investors, who are waiting since March 2009 without success for a promised front-up profit share of EUR 60m (AED 300m). For June 26, 2009 he initiated an extraordinary general assembly via fax voting.

Even in 2008, many investors signed ACI shares with the expectation to make easily some 12% annual profit with a lot of emphasis. They paid at least shares in the value of EUR 10k (AED 50k) plus a surplus of 5% to ACI. Thus, due to the enormous success of ACI’s pilot investment fund from 2004, which was the first Germany based fund in Dubai over all, with profit returns higher than calculated.

This kind of masterpiece was the newcomer’s “ice breaker” in relations to many German speaking as well as Arab investors. Robin Lohmann received a lot of honors in Dubai as exceptional entrepreneur: He was the first German who received 2008 the “CEO Middle East Award” as well as the “Arabian Property Award”.
And, Robin Lohmann “invented” 2007 the so-called Tower Branding – giving huge investment objects the names of living legends. November 2007, Robin inked with the motorsport legend and airline chief Niki Lauda from Austria his first branding license agreement. Two residential and commercial towers (33 and 30 floors) in Dubai Business Bay shall be named Niki Lauda Twin Towers. Lump sum to be paid from the investor’s funds back in Germany to Lauda, was EUR 1m (AED 5m).

In January 2008, tennis and poker game legend Boris Becker became patron for another planned tower with 23 floors, next to Niki Lauda Twin Towers. Although his branding was related only to one tower, he received from ACI 100% more than Niki Lauda: EUR 2m (AED 10m).
Im Summer 2008, Formula One Driver Michael Schumacher joined as third prominent branding partner – name of “his” project Michael Schumacher Business Avenue with 35 floors. He received EUR 5m (AED 25m).
What a genius move! The media applauded and investors queued up in front of ACI’s offices. Huge funds went into ACI’s accounts and no one did wonder that the concerned HNWIs Lauda, Becker and Schumacher didn’t invest a single penny themselves in “their” tower projects.

Entrepreneur and millions juggler Robin Lohmann jumped with the branding strategy on top of Dubai’s Tower Flip Sales Bubble. “Sales is tremendously increasing”, stated his father Uwe in press releases. But when Dubai’s property bubble did burst in autumn 2008, the free fall for Robin Lohmann couldn’t be stopped. What did he wrong? Why did his projects switch “on hold”, although most of the other projects sustained the crisis? Martin Kraeter (45), Principal, Trustee and Dubai analyst at KLP Group Emirates and living in UAE since 5 years: “Lohmann’s branded towers with the name of prominent people have been very ‘hip’ in Dubai. But Lohmann and his management team closed any sales deal they could get. More or less blind they sold their off plan units to anyone, whoever came across. By this, they often sold units to ‘flippers’.

‘Flippers’ paid with signing of contracts just a down payment of 5 or 10%. If feasible, the project started with the first project step. Before starting the next level, the buyers had been scheduled to pay the next installment, what they didn’t or couldn’t. Because it was their plan to ‘flip’ – means to sell the purchased off plan unit before the next installment due date with a ‘premium’ to the next following ‘flipper’ – themselves. The financial crisis came up and all follow up ‘flippers’ disappeared, being the needed target to make the buck.

Due to the financial crisis and the consequences in lending policies of banks, these terrible speculator models disappeared over night. Serious fonds initiators and developers take at least 20 or 30% down payment so that the off plan buyers keep on track.”

What went wrong now with the fund entities II to V from ACI, to which also the branded towers are belonging?
The reasons gave Senior Uwe Lohmann by himself with a letter to all investors end of May: The fund entities would have been closed and finalized as per 31st of December 2008, due to the negative change of the double taxation treaty between Germany and the UAE. Closing per end of 2008 would enable the entities to pay out profits tax free, by this all projects has been sold out in one move to one buyer end of December 2008. Buyer was a company called YAMA International LLC from Dubai. But YAMA has not been able to pay the contract price in the amount of EUR 100m (AED 500m) because their bank loan and finance agreements failed. Due to that reason, ACI would not be in the position to pay its investors the front up profit share of EUR 60m (AED 300m) as promised per March 2009.

Dubai expert Kraeter values this letter as a Bluff: “It seems for me that the project purchase by YAMA is a fake. This over hasted sale of the construction pits should have been initiated by the specific tax-free situation, ending with December 31st 2008. But this obviously cancelled deal is in my view possibly more the spoofing of inproper usage of investor’s moneys.”

Before 26th of June – the deadline of the general assembly – now one wants to comment on that at ACI.

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There are some more actual press releases in Germany coming up at the moment:

17.06.09 – http://www.gomopa.info/Pressemitteilungen.html?id=256&meldung=Die-Pleitetuerme-von-Becker-Schumacher-und-Lauda [Translation above]
22.06.09 – http://www.gomopa.info/Pressemitteilungen.html?id=259&meldung=ACI-Dubai-Fonds-inklusive-Lear-Jet-fuer-den-Juniorchef [German]
23.06.09 – http://www.gomopa.info/Pressemitteilungen.html?id=261&meldung=ACI-Dubai-Dr-Schulte-Anwaelte-pruefen-Haftung-von-Boris-Becker-Michael-Schumacher-&-Niki-Lauda [German]

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