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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Investors seeking millions of dollars of refunds from delayed projects planned by Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) in Dubai fear they will never get their money back after German authorities began an investigation into allegations of fraud at the company.

ACI, which launched the biggest German investment fund for properties in the emirate in 2004, last week declared bankruptcy on four of the seven funds. The company is thought to have collected about US$272 million (Dh999m) from 6,000 investors across the funds.

Heinrich Rempe, a senior prosecutor in Bielefeld, western Germany, told The National an investigation had been launched against the company’s management for “alleged capital investment fraud and breach of trust”.

Prosecutors were investigating the founder of ACI, Hanns-Uwe Lohmann, and his son Robin, the German press reported.

Mr Lohmann Sr, who has since resigned as the company’s chief executive, denied the allegations and blamed the unfinished projects on Dubai’s property slump.

Dozens of cases against ACI – which spent millions of dollars in 2007 and 2008 marketing and selling properties in buildings endorsed by the sporting celebrities Michael Schumacher, Boris Becker and Niki Lauda – are being pursued at the Dubai Property Court, although it is unclear whether any have been successful so far.

Ron Oakeley, a British businessman, filed a case against ACI two years ago and has since attended more than 15 hearings. Mr Oakeley is trying to recover more than Dh1.2m spent on two offices at the Niki Lauda Twin Towers in Business Bay in Dubai. The court has appointed an official to check progress on the project, which appears to be at a standstill, while Mr Oakeley’s next hearing has been scheduled for September 29.

“We’ve just got to wait to see what happens,” he said. “But meanwhile … I don’t know quite how we’re going to get [the money] back.”

Valeri Babak, a Russian property buyer, invested Dh2.9bn in a number of offices at Victory Bay, a project in Business Bay. Mr Babak said he was awaiting judgment from the court, which he was “sure we will get”.

Robin Lohmann headed up ACI’s office next to Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach, although none of the 11 projects advertised on the company’s website have been completed.

The Jumeirah Beach office was recently closed, with the company moving to offices in Al Barsha, a spokesman for the company confirmed yesterday, adding Mr Lohmann was in Germany “dealing with the crisis”.

The spokesman told The National in June that a failure among investors to keep up payments was the reason the projects were on hold. He claimed most of their deposits, which were mainly collected before the escrow law was introduced in the middle of 2007, had been spent on marketing new projects.

agiuffrida@thenational.ae

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ACI Real Estate has filed for bankruptcy on four of its seven property funds, according to media reports in Germany.

The company – which launched a number of celebrity branded towers in Dubai – is understood to have declared the funds bankrupt at a court in Bielefeld, Germany.

The property funds were launched in 2004, with investors believed to have paid $75m into them. The first fund six years ago was used to develop a property in Jumeirah Lake Towers, Funds two and three were used for ACI’s City of Arabia development, and funds four and five for projects in Business Bay and Victory Bay.

Funds six and seven related to investments in the sports-branded Michael Schumacher and Nikki Lauder developments.

Payments from the funds were due in March last year, but did not materialise. Shortly after, the company’s boss Robin Lohmann told Arabian Business: “Giving money back is not an option as this point in time. The money has been invested in the land, which is fully paid for, and the money has been spent in the development, which is normal – the contractor and suppliers are not working for free.”

It is not clear whether work will now progress on a string of ACI Real Estate projects in Dubai. In 2008, the company announced plans for Michael Schumacher Business Avenue, Boris Becker Business Tower and Niki Lauda Twin Towers.

Construction on all three projects stalled last year. Its website still lists 11 projects that it says are under development, with another six being undertaken by “third party developers”.

Last year Lohmann hit back at claims that the projects were being cancelled and that investors would lose their cash, saying: “For me there is no chance I will do a hit and run. You know why? Because I haven’t even collected the money I have invested and spent here. I’m not going ahead and losing AED500m ($136.1m), it’s not the way.”

Lohmann could not be contacted for comment.

Gütersloh/Bielefeld (dpa). Several companies for real estate funds in Dubai under the umbrella of the German investment company ACI signed bankruptcy on Friday. This handle the companies of Fund II to V and ACI IV Beteiligungs GmbH, was announced by the Amtsgericht Bielefeld. A provisional administrator will probably determined on Monday, it was said. Document number not issued yet.
The company had previously announced the bankruptcy. Reason was the price drop in real estate in Dubai, stressed ACI founder Uwe Lohmann. “Inevitable accounting depreciation of the carrying amount of the projects in Dubai” had then resulted in the bankruptcy.

The Fund VI and VII are not affected. ACI (alternative capital invest) have around 70 million investors money collected and distributed so far EUR 13.8 million. The building projects, several skyscrapers in Dubai, are “in unfinished construction”, said Lohmann.

After a determined the public prosecutor’s Office Bielefeld suspected of investment fraud against ACI for months.

In November 2009 the State company had Dubai acknowledged world, that he and his real estate subsidiary Nakheel which is known for the construction of the artificial island in Palm had accumulated debt of approximately $ 60 billion. Resulted in a significant loss of confidence by investors in the region of Dubai according to banks.