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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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One Comment

    • omniyat6
    • Posted 02/08/2011 at 23:11
    • Permalink

    I have A LOT of inside information on Omniyat, especially for Business Bay and Waterfront projects. Contact me for more info on omniyat@hotmail.com


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