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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.

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.

Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) — Not long ago, British businessman Ryan Cornelius was living the high life, doing deals out of Bahrain and taking his family big-game fishing on his yacht and on safari in Kenya. He’s now into his third year in a Dubai jail cell, yet to be convicted of anything.

“The worst aspect of the way we’ve been treated is the fact that the legal system seems to be so suspended in its own inefficiency,” he said from a pay phone at Dubai’s Central Prison. “We just don’t seem to move forward. The whole legal system seems to hold you in a state of constant suspension.”

Cornelius, 56, and six co-defendants have been charged with defrauding Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC of $501 million, one of the largest such cases in the history of United Arab Emirates. He says he did nothing wrong, and like others, foreigners and nationals, who profited in Dubai in the boom times, he waits in prison as the legal system slowly tries to separate the guilty from the innocent of those arrested in an anti-corruption drive.

Dubai’s image as the Singapore of the Middle East, a global hub for finance and tourism, is being tested as it tries to clamp down on excesses such as fraud and overdevelopment, which came with an explosion of people and investment. Its judicial system still often has more in common with its regional neighbors than the Western nations that it aspires to emulate, say lawyers and economists who work there.

The government won’t say how many people have been arrested in the two-year campaign against financial corruption. Detained in Dubai, a London-based lobbying group, says several hundred executives may have been jailed.

Debtors’ Prisons

In all, about 40 percent of the 1,200 people in Dubai Central Prison have been convicted of defaulting on bank loans, Human Rights Watch said in a report in January. Even after completing their sentences, the New York-based group said, prisoners are likely to remain in jail until their debt is paid off, unlike in the U.S. or the U.K., where debtors’ prisons were abolished in the 19th century.

Over-lengthy sentences and a lack of specially trained judges to deal with white-collar crime threaten to discourage investment in Dubai, said Habib al-Mulla, the former chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority, an industry regulator. The U.S. State Department said in a March report that while the country’s constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, the U.A.E. court system remains “subject to review by the political leadership.” Defendants can spend months without being charged and are often unfairly denied bail, according to lawyers.

‘Damaging Effect’

“Our current criminal laws are not fit to deal with sophisticated financial crimes,” said al-Mulla, a lawyer who helped defend Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in a U.S. lawsuit and now represents one of Cornelius’s co-defendants. New laws are needed “to protect bona fide businessmen from the abuse that some do face under the current legal system. This abuse has a damaging effect on the economy and the country.”

The Dubai government and the prosecutor’s office didn’t respond to repeated e-mailed and phone requests for comment during a three-week period.

The government started the anti-corruption drive as the global credit crisis cut Dubai home prices in half from their peak in 2008, the biggest drop in property values in the world. The city-state, the second largest of the seven emirates that make up the U.A.E., has amassed debts of more than $100 billion related to projects such as the world’s tallest tower and artificial palm tree-shaped islands built by developer Nakheel PJSC.

Some Freed

Some U.A.E. citizens arrested were freed after repaying what the government said they owed. The former governor of the Dubai International Financial Center, Omar bin Sulaiman, was released from prison in May following two months of detention after he returned about $14 million in bonuses, according to a government announcement. Hashim Al Dabal, the ex-chairman of state-owned Dubai Properties LLC, got out in June after eight months in detention by paying $35 million as part of an embezzlement investigation, the government said.

Others remain in prison as their trials inch along. Zack Shahin, a former PepsiCo Inc. executive from Ohio, has been incarcerated since March 2008, charged in the alleged $27 million embezzlement at property company Deyaar Development PJSC. Two Australian executives from Nakheel, Marcus Lee and Matt Joyce, spent almost half a year in jail without charges and are now on bail facing trial for misappropriating funds.

“In Dubai, they would prefer to keep them in custody to put pressure on them, to generally punish them and make life difficult for them,” said Robert Brown, a partner at London- based Corker Binning, which represented a Pakistani defendant whose extradition to Dubai from the U.K. was refused in March because a court ruled he faced possible torture.

‘Politically Charged’

In a statement earlier this year, Shahin’s lawyers said he was imprisoned without charges for 13 months, denied food, held in solitary confinement and often blindfolded, interrogated for 18 hours at a time and threatened with torture. They said Shahin, 45, is innocent and “a target of a politically charged investigation.”

Dubai’s attorney general, Essam Essa al-Humaidan, last year denied allegations Shahin, a U.S. citizen, has been abused, saying in an interview that Shahin and other defendants “have been granted all the rights under U.A.E. law.” The U.S. government has “repeatedly” raised Shahin’s case with the U.A.E. authorities, a State Department spokesman, who asked not to be identified because of the pending legal proceedings, said in an interview on July 23. Shahin’s case was last discussed in May at a Washington meeting between Attorney General Eric Holder and U.A.E. Justice Minister Hadef bin Jua’an Al Dhaheri, the spokesman said, when the U.S. asked the trial be conducted expeditiously.

Flight Risk

“Regardless of whether an individual is innocent or guilty, there should be due process and he or she should be charged in a timely manner,” Samer Muscati, a lawyer from Human Rights Watch who specializes in the U.A.E., said in a phone interview from Toronto.

With about 90 percent of Dubai’s 1.8 million population made up of foreigners, there is a “natural tendency to assume these individuals pose a flight risk,” said Carlos Gonzalez, a partner for Miami-based Diaz Reus LLP, which has worked on commercial disputes and fraud cases in the Middle East.

‘Psychological Pressures’

“In the U.S. it is common to see the courts in white- collar cases grant bail,” said Gonzalez, adding that keeping individuals in jail for several years during legal proceedings puts “psychological pressures” on them.

Investors are looking carefully at the rule of law in Dubai after the prosecutions of foreign executives, said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi. “It is good they are taking some individuals to court, pursuing them, but the way they are pursuing them could impact Dubai.”

In Russia, lawmakers are revising the law on economic crimes, resulting in the possible early release of as many as 100,000 imprisoned executives and entrepreneurs as the government seeks to attract investors.

‘Fake Deals’

Cornelius and his co-defendants are accused of diverting funds from a $501 million trade-financing loan for projects such as the Plantation, a 20 million-square-foot development in the Dubai desert that was to include five polo pitches with stables for 800 horses, a luxury hotel and houses. The prosecution charges Cornelius and others forged documents and used the loans for “fake deals,” according to a court document.

“I absolutely deny all the allegations against me,” Cornelius said in a telephone interview from Dubai Central Prison on July 15.

Cornelius said the money was mostly used for property development in Bahrain and the relocation of an oil refinery from Canada to Pakistan as well as the Plantation in Dubai. He said he and the others reached a debt repayment agreement in 2007 with Dubai Islamic Bank. It took control of the Plantation, valued in mid-2008 at $1.1 billion by property broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., after the arrest of Cornelius and his associates.

Prison Life

He spends his time in a dormitory with about 100 other men. The conditions are an improvement over the several weeks he was in Rashidiya prison, where more than 250 prisoners shared six rooms meant for 48 and two working toilets, he said. Cornelius said he was held in solitary for six weeks after his arrest in May 2008. The yacht and his beach hotel in Kenya have been sold, he said.

Cornelius said he’s been denied bail a dozen times. The proceedings are in Arabic and difficult to follow though he has a court interpreter. Originally facing a maximum sentence of three years, Cornelius and the others could get up to 20 years in prison under Dubai’s tougher new anti-corruption law announced after his arrest.

Radha Stirling, a lawyer and founder of Detained in Dubai, which offers support to expatriates held in Dubai, said there has been a marked increase in detentions for financial crimes since last year. The majority of cases she is dealing with are debt related or because of bounced checks, which is a criminal offense in the U.A.E.

Image Tarnished

“I think a lot of people relocated to Dubai as an extension of Europe, like France, Spain or even the U.S.,” Stirling said. “It was seen as very developed with a good legal system. The average person who was once going there to seek employment or invest will shy away from Dubai.”

Rony Bacque, the business development manager for the Wine Academy of Spain, said he canceled plans to set up a branch in Dubai to offer training in wines for hotels and restaurants. His brother-in-law was named in an Interpol warrant for almost five years until this July after he was convicted in absentia for breach of trust in a Dubai business dispute, Bacque said.

The Dubai legal system is no better or worse than others in the region, said Gonzalez, the Miami lawyer. What is different, he said, is Dubai’s aspirations.

“You can’t wake up and say we’re working to have a world- class financial system overnight and build a legal system to match,” he said. “Dubai, as an aspiring global marketplace, must also endeavor to become recognized as a cutting-edge legal center capable of developing a legal structure that matches its financial ambitions.”

–With assistance from Camilla Hall in Abu Dhabi and Zainab Fattah in Dubai. Editors: Steve Bailey, James Amott.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Dubai at;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

Laut Feri haben etwa 100.000 Anleger rund 1 Mrd. Euro Investitionen in Dubai-Fonds angelegt. Bis auf die „Marktführer“ ACI und Trendcapital handelt es sich um kleine Emissionshäuser ohne aussagefähige Leistungsbilanzen und mit nur geringer Erfahrung. Die letzten beiden Aussagen treffen auch auf ACI und Trendcapital zu.

§            Alternative Capital Invest GmbH & Co. (ACI), Gütersloh (Hans-Uwe Lohmann und Sohn Robin Lohmann): 8.000 Anleger mit Investitionskapital von 600 Mio. € mit sieben Beteiligungsgesellschaften in wirtschaftlicher Schieflage (zwei Klagen gegen die ACI sind bereits anhängig). Aufsichtsbehörde in Dubai ermittelt gegen ACI (Branch) wegen Verstoßes gegen Law No. 8.

§            Trendcapital AG, Mainz + Wiesbaden (Vorstand: Frank Simon), im Jahre 2000 gegründetes Emissionshaus:  Investitionskapital von insgesamt 89 Mio. € eingeworben für Dubai Fonds Business Bay I, II + III + Trend Capital GmbH & Co. Qatar Pearl KG (Business Bay I) angeblich erfolgreich mit 119,3 % Rückfluss aufgelöst), Abwicklung von Business II + III verzögert.

§            Dubai Select Management GmbH, München (GF: Thomas Winkmann): Anleger mit 50,02 Mio. € Investitionskapital — Dubai Select Immobilienfonds GmbH & Co. KG (Anlegerausschuss mit Ove Franz).

§            Quickfunds Gesellschaft für internationales Investment GmbH, Köln: Dubai Direkt Fonds I + II + III, in Liquidation (Liquidator: RA Dr. Reiter von BR & C).

§            VentaCom GmbH, Bremen (Edler von Schickh, Bremen): 20 Mio. € Zielvolumen für Erste Opportunity Fonds Dubai (5 Mio. € Investitionsvolumen) + Dubai VAE Opportunity II (Ventafonds)

§            Amaxfunds Vertriebs GmbH, Nettethal: Amax Dubai Renditefonds I GmbH & Co. KG mit 15 Mio. € Beteiligungskapital.

§            World of Fonds Initiator GmbH, Fulda (Inga Bruns + Christian Atzert): Dubai Property Portfolio Plus GmbH & Co. KG + Dubai PPP II GmbH & Co. KG, vorher: Dubai Sports City KG (von TrendCapital konzeptioniert, Immobilie mittlerweile veräußert, Zahlungseingang + Auflösung Fonds im Juni 2009 erwartet)

§            Dubai 1.000 Hotelfonds GmbH & Co. KG: 25 Mio. € Investitionen. Liquidation des Fonds zum 29.07.2008 angestrebt. Ermittlungen der StA Dortmund gegen Geschäftsführer Georg Recker wegen Kapitalanlagebetrugs + Betrugs (internationaler Haftbefehl), das in Deutschland befindliche Fondsvermögen wurde zwischenzeitlich arrestiert.

§            First Real Estate Grundbesitz GmbH (insolvent): Dubai Invest Immobilienfonds GmbH & Co. KG: Blindpool-Beteiligung in wirtschaftlicher Schieflage. Das Landgericht Düsseldorf hat mit Urteil vom 27.06.2008 die Dubai Invest Immobilienfonds, den Hintermann Michael Böhle + die GF. Ilona Müller zu Schadensersatz verurteilt (Kapitalanlagebetrug + sittenwidrige Schädigung).

§            Selfmade Capital Management GmbH (Andre Hartwig): Emirates I (13 Mio. € eingeworbenes Investitionskapital), II + III mit Genusssscheinrechtsvereinbarung.

§            Shedlin Capital AG, Nürnberg: geplantes Fondsvolumen von 48 Mio. € der Shedlin Middle East Health Care 1 GmbH & Co. KG, Bremen: Investitionen in das Gesundheitswesen (Errichtung und der Betrieb eines Krankenhauses als auch einer Stadtklinik in Abu Dhabi).

§            Dubai Forum Project AG & Co. KG: 15 Mio. € Anlegergelder

§            Middle East Select GmbH & Co. KG, Bremen (Hans-Jürgen Döhle, Heinz G. Wulfrath und David F. Heimdorfer): 12 Mio. € Investitionen Zielvolumen in Immobilien- + Infrastrukturprojekte mit Blindpool-Konzept.

Das Märchen vom großen Geld ist aus. Anleger haben Millionen in Dubai investiert, doch viele Fonds haben nur einen Bruchteil dessen ausgeschüttet, was sie versprochen hatten. In Deutschland steht nun der Dubai-Fondsanbieter Alternative Capital Invest, für den Sportler wie Boris Becker oder Michael Schumacher werben, im Fokus der Bielefelder Staatsanwaltschaft.

DÜSSELDURF/FRANKFURT. Niki Lauda macht den großen Boxenstopp in Dubai – und das ausgerechnet bei Alternative Capital Invest (ACI). Ob er oder andere Sportgrößen wie Boris Becker und Michael Schumacher noch einmal ihren guten Namen für diese Gesellschaft hergeben würden, ist höchst zweifelhaft. Denn für ACI, einen Anbieter von Dubai-Immobilienfonds mit Sitz in Gütersloh, interessiert sich inzwischen die Staatsanwaltschaft in Bielefeld. Sie ließ Ende Juni die Geschäftsräume von ACI durchsuchen – wegen des Verdachts auf Kapitalanlagebetrug.

Für sieben Fonds hatte ACI laut Analysehaus Feri rund 210 Mio. Euro eingesammelt. Die Zahl der Anleger beziffert ACI selbst auf mehr als 6 000. Die Firma war damit Marktführer unter den Dubai-Fonds, in die nach Angaben von Feri insgesamt rund 700 Mio. Euro investiert wurden – von schätzungsweise 20 000 Anlegern. Nicht nur die ACI-Kunden werden von ihrem Geld wohl nur einen Bruchteil wiedersehen – das zeichnet sich schon jetzt ab.

Von wenigen Ausnahmen abgesehen sind Dubai-Fonds-Anleger, wie bei geschlossenen Fonds üblich, Kommanditisten einer KG, sie haften also nur mit ihrer Einlage. Mit ihrem Geld, meist mindestens 10 000 Euro, sollten nach Abzug diverser Nebenkosten Immobilien in Dubai entstehen und mit Gewinn weiterverkauft werden. Und das auch möglichst schnell, denn das Steuerschlupfloch, das die Gewinne von der Steuer befreite, gab es nur bis Ende 2008. Gesetzesänderungen und die weltweite Immobilienkrise machten den Anlegern einen Strich durch die Rechnung. Vor allem das riskante Geschäftsmodell, angezahlte Objekte vor Fertigstellung zu einem höheren Preis weiterzuverkaufen, ging nicht auf, weil sich keine neuen Käufer fanden.

Dieses Modell verfolgte auch ACI. In dem im Juli 2007 aufgelegten Prospekt für den Fonds VII warb ACI zum Beispiel damit, dass der erste Fonds prospektgemäß aufgelöst worden sei und die Immobilien der Fonds II bis V verkauft seien. Heute gibt ACI-Chef Hanns-Uwe Lohmann zu: “Der bereits Mitte 2008 von der ACI eingeleitete Gesamtverkauf der Fonds II bis V an die Firma Yama scheiterte auch daran, dass der gesamte Immobilienmarkt in Dubai zusammenbrach.” Anlegeranwalt Hartmut Göddecke vermutet andere Gründe: “Die Grundstücke gehören offenbar nicht einmal den Fonds”, sagt Göddecke. Dies weist Lohmann zurück. Er sieht in den Angriffen lediglich den Versuch Göddeckes, weitere Mandanten für Schadensersatzprozesse gegen ACI zu gewinnen.

Lohmann legt eine Pressemitteilung der Staatsantwaltschaft Bielefeld zu seinen Gunsten aus: “Die bei der Hausdurchsuchung gewonnenen Erkenntnisse haben den Verdacht des Kapitalanlagebetrugs bisher nicht erhärten können”, heißt es darin. Seinen größten Gegenspieler, den ehemaligen Vermittler der ACI-Dubai-Fonds Rainer Regnery, wird Lohmann damit wohl kaum beeindrucken. Regnery weiß eine Interessengemeinschaft ACI-Geschädigter hinter sich, die nach seinen Worten rund 1 000 Personen umfasst.

Letztendlich wird es darum gehen, wer für die Verluste der Anleger verantwortlich ist. Denn abzuwenden ist der Schaden wohl nicht mehr. Dubai-Fonds – und nicht nur die der ACI – haben überwiegend nur einen Bruchteil dessen ausgeschüttet, was sie in Aussicht gestellt hatten. Die Gütersloher sind nicht das erste Emissionshaus für Dubai-Fonds, für das sich Strafverfolger interessieren.

Zu einem regelrechten Krimi wächst sich die Jagd nach Georg Recker aus. Der Initiator der “Dubai 1000 Fonds” wird inzwischen per internationalem Haftbefehl gesucht, die Staatsanwaltschaft Dortmund ermittelt wegen Betrugs gegen ihn und seine Ehefrau. Rund 25 Mio. Euro sammelte er allein bei etwa 1 000 deutschen Anlegern ein, versprach ihnen “steuerfreie Ausschüttungen von mindestens zehn Prozent”. Das größte Vier-Sterne-Hotel im arabischen Raum wollte Recker mit dem Fondsvolumen von rund 143 Mio. Euro bauen.

Gleich zu Hunderten empfing der Finanzwirt aus Hamm Interessenten in Dubai. Wer mit ihm vom Boom im Wüstenstaat profitieren wollte, musste mindestens 10 000 Euro auf den Tisch legen. Seine zahlreichen Kunden glaubten an die smarte Rechtsanwältin, die Recker als Kontrolleurin auf die Finger schauen sollte, sie glaubten an die betuchten Gäste, die ab Sommer 2007 in modernsten Konferenzräumen des geplanten Hotels tagen oder in einem Riesenballsaal tanzen sollten. Das Märchen aus Tausendundeiner Nacht mutierte dann zur Gruselstory. Die Anwältin ist inzwischen Reckers Ehefrau, das Hotel nur ein Loch im Wüstensand.

Niemand weiß, wo das Geld der Anleger versickert ist. Gerade einmal eine Million Euro konnten die Strafverfolger noch einfrieren. Recker lebt in Dubai, ausgeliefert werden kann er von da aus nicht. Mit den Staatsanwälten spricht er nur über seinen Anwalt. Unklar ist, ob Recker überhaupt genug Geld für das Projekt zusammenbekommen hatte. Sein Münchener Anwalt Ekkehart Heberlein, der Recker gegen Schadensersatzklagen von Anlegern vertritt, sieht jedenfalls “überhaupt keine kriminelle Energie” bei seinem Mandanten.

Der Hotel-Fonds von Recker war seinerzeit der größte und exotischste Fonds. Die meisten Fonds versuchten wie viele Privatinvestoren, mit Wohnungen reich zu werden. Oskar Edler von Schickh, Geschäftsführer der ebenfalls ins Dubai-Geschäft verstrickten Ventafonds, macht seinen und den Kunden anderer Fondshäuser wenig Hoffnung, dass dies noch gelingt. Die Mieten seien seit Ausbruch der Krise um 30 Prozent gesunken. Und in diesem Jahr kämen noch 30 000 Wohnungen auf den Markt, sagt von Schickh, was nicht für steigende Mieten und Preise spräche.


Fonds: Viele Immobilienfondsanbieter haben Produkte aufgelegt, die Vorteile aus dem Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen (DBA) ziehen sollten. Dazu zählen auch die Dubai-Fonds, die im Jahr 2005 erstmals auf den Markt kamen. Sie waren so konstruiert, dass das Besteuerungsrecht für Gewinne aus der Veräußerung von Immobilien in Dubai dem Emirat zustand. Weil laut DBA Einkünfte nicht doppelt besteuert werden dürfen, ging der deutsche Fiskus leer aus. Und weil gleichzeitig Dubai die Gewinne nicht besteuerte, blieben die Gewinne für die deutschen Anleger vollkommen steuerfrei.

Markteinbruch: Im Jahr 2006 knickte der Absatz mit Fonds aus Dubai ein, weil das Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen im August 2006 auslaufen sollte. Als das Abkommen bis Ende 2008 verlängert wurde, versuchten die Fonds, ihre Objekte bis zu diesem Termin zu veräußern – was jedoch meistens misslang. Seit Ende 2008 müssen deutsche Anleger Veräußerungsgewinne aus Dubai auch hierzulande versteuern.

Bron: Handelsblatt

Mehr als 200 Millionen Euro hat das Emissionshaus ACI aus Gütersloh bei Tausenden Anlegern eingesammelt, um damit traumhafte Immobilienprojekte in Dubai zu finanzieren. Doch nun ermittelt die Staatsanwaltschaft. Sie geht dem Verdacht auf Betrug nach.

Hamburg – Die Staatsanwaltschaft Bielefeld hat am Dienstag mehrere Geschäftsräume des Emissionshauses Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) in Gütersloh durchsucht. Nach Informationen von manager magazin inspizierten die Beamten zudem Privaträume von ACI-Verantwortlichen.

Nach Auskunft der Staatsanwaltschaft geht sie dem Verdacht auf Kapitalanlagebetrug nach. Es werde geprüft, ob “im Zusammenhang mit dem Vertrieb von Beteiligungen an geschlossenen Immobilienfonds unrichtige Angaben gemacht worden sind und ob diese gegebenenfalls für die Entscheidung der Anleger, sich an den Fonds zu beteiligen, erheblich waren”, heißt es in einer Mitteilung.

Die bei der Razzia gewonnenen Erkenntnisse hätten den Verdacht bisher nicht erhärten können, teilte die Staatsanwaltschaft weiter mit. Eine genaue Auswertung der vorgefundenen Unterlagen bleibe abzuwarten.

Die Ermittlungen gehen zurück auf eine Anzeige von Rainer R., ehemals Vertriebspartner von ACI und nach Informationen von manager magazin selbst im hohen fünfstelligen Bereich an den Fonds des Unternehmens beteiligt. “Wir halten einige Fondsprospekte für fehlerhaft”, fasst Hartmut Göddecke, Anwalt von R., die Vorwürfe zusammen. “Zudem sind bei zwei Beteiligungsgesellschaften die Eigentumsverhältnisse der Grundstücke unklar und wir haben Zweifel an der Seriosität von Fondskalkulationen.” Bei ACI war für eine Stellungnahme zunächst niemand zu erreichen.

Mehr als 8000 Anleger haben in den Fonds investiert

Die ACI gilt hierzulande als größter Anbieter von Kapitalanlagen mit Investitionsziel Dubai. Mehr als 8000 Anleger haben bislang mehr als 200 Millionen Euro in Fonds des Unternehmens investiert. Projekte mit einem Volumen von mehr als 600 Millionen Euro sollten mit dem Geld realisiert werden. Besonderes Markenzeichen von ACI ist dabei das sogenannte Tower-Branding, bei dem Prominente wie Michael Schumacher, Boris Becker und Niki Lauda den Projekten des Unternehmens ihren Namen leihen.

Seit die Finanzkrise den Boom in Dubai vorerst beendet hat, läuft aber auch bei ACI nicht mehr viel rund. 2009 platzte der Verkauf mehrerer Immobilien aus vier Fonds des Unternehmens, der den Anlegern Rückflüsse in Höhe von mehr als 120 Millionen Euro bringen sollte. Mit den Folgen dieses Flops schlagen sich die Investoren nach Angaben von Anwalt Göddecke noch heute herum.

Die Verkäufe seien von ACI trotz allem verbucht und den Investoren eine Gewinnzuweisung zugeteilt worden, sagt Göddecke. “Der Fiskus hat auf die Scheingewinne prompt Steuern kassiert.” Die steuerliche Mehrbelastung könne sich in Einzelfällen auf fünfstellige Beträge summieren. Auch dazu war von ACI keine Stellungnahme zu bekommen.

ACI ist nicht der erste Dubai-Initiator, der seinen Anlegern wenig Freude bereitet. Vor wenigen Jahren scheiterte der umtriebige Finanzwirt Georg R. aus Hamm bei dem Versuch, sich als Fonds-Initiator zu positionieren. Aus seinem Hotelprojekt, für das er mindestens 20 Millionen Euro bei Anlegern eingesammelt hat, wurde bis heute nichts. Auch R. geriet schnell ins Visier der Staatsanwaltschaft.

The hearing begins and a few words and papers are exchanged between the judge and the lawyers representing each side.

Within minutes, it is all over. Claimants and defendants are quickly ushered out of the courtroom as their respective lawyers whisper a roughly translated version of the judge’s ruling. Moments later, the next case begins.

Welcome to Dubai’s Property Court, a division of the emirate’s legal system that has been dealing with the fallout of its property crisis since September 2008.

As case files spill out of a room one floor down from the court, officials decline to reveal how many property disputes are under way or pending. A clerk in charge of registering cases hints that the figure may be in the “thousands”.

“We are overwhelmed … it is too much work,” says the clerk, who does not want to be named. “Some cases are small, some are big. People should try and settle with the developer as they will spend more bringing the problem here.”

Just a few months after it opened in 2008, the Property Court had a mammoth challenge on its hands after the property downturn.

The court is a “work in progress”, says Dr Jamal Alsumaiti, the director general of the Dubai Judicial Institute. “You can see there’s movement from the government for regulation and for developing the judicial system as well … it’s a very critical period.”

Ron Oakeley is more than familiar with the Property Court, and the huge investment of money and time that come with a lawsuit.

The British businessman, who has been in Dubai since 1985, is about to attend his 15th hearing in a case filed more than a year ago against Alternative Capital Investment (ACI), a German developer.

Mr Oakeley is trying to recover more than Dh1.2 million (US$327,000) he spent on two offices at ACI’s long-delayed Niki Lauda Twin Towers, one of a trio of projects launched in late 2007.

His efforts, in part, paid off in February when the court rendered his agreement with ACI for one of the units “void” and ordered the company to repay him Dh569,585, plus 5 per cent interest from the date he started proceedings.

The court ruled for Mr Oakeley because ACI had failed to register the property with Dubai’s Land Department, according to court documents. A property contract is valid only when it is registered with the department.

But Mr Oakeley lost the case for the second unit, which cost Dh695,000, because the court found that the property had been registered, although it has since emerged it was under somebody else’s name.

ACI was quick to appeal the decision on the first unit. At yesterday’s hearing, the court decided to appoint an official to check on construction progress at the site, which appears to be at a standstill.

If there is still no conclusion at the next hearing, scheduled for June 23, then the case could go to the Court of Cassation, the final stage in the judicial process.

Mr Oakeley is one of dozens of investors with suits against ACI. He says it has so far cost Dh400,000, including fees and the cost of lawyers. But with the project showing little sign of progressing, he says he has no choice but to fight on.

“It’s the principle … most people can’t afford to keep fighting,” he says. “Unlike elsewhere in the world, you’ve got to spend so much more money to get your rights. There are hundreds of other projects in the same boat but nobody seems to be helping the people.”

Robin Lohmann, the chief executive of ACI, was unavailable for comment in the past two days.

Property disputes are generally filtered through the Dubai Land Department, where the department’s legal team tried to resolve them before they reach a courtroom.

While there is a surge in the number of investors turning to the department after the financial crisis, fewer people are approaching it today, says Mohammed Sultan Thani, the assistant director general of the Land Department.

“We are now seeing a lot of agreements between the buyer and seller,” Mr Thani adds. “There’s been a lot of movement of buyers between a project that hasn’t started to one that has.”

Since the Property Court is costly, it has mainly been used by major investors such as Mr Oakeley, who have the funds to pursue a case.

It costs Dh30,000 to register each case with the court, so if an investor has bought 10 apartments from one developer, simply lodging the dispute will cost Dh300,000.

As well, all cases require a local lawyer, who will charge a commission of up to 5 per cent of what the client is claiming. The proceedings are in Arabic so a claimant would have to pay for the translation of court documents as required.

“For an investor contemplating filing a legal case against a developer, it is advisable to first seek consultation with a lawyer who can advise whether filing a case makes sense based on the circumstances,” says Ludmila Yamalova, a partner at Al Sayyah Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Some cases have been settled out of court, Ms Yamalova adds, with developers agreeing to reimburse claimants in instalments.

With just four judges at the Property Court, cases can be long. But more than 18 months after it was established, steps are being taken to refine the system, says Dr Alsumaiti – a move that will likely boost confidence among investors.

“Four judges are not enough,” he says. “The concept of having a specialised property court isn’t new but the implementation is. The judges need to have the skills and knowledge to understand every single detail of a case. As long has you have provisions to speed up your procedures, you have a very strong legal system.”

A property investor has been awarded a refund by Dubai Courts for an office unit he bought in a project that is 20 months behind schedule.

The British businessman Ron Oakeley bought two offices in a building in Dubai’s Business Bay that was to be named after the former Formula One racing driver Niki Lauda. The proposed Niki Lauda Twin Towers building was part of a trio of projects launched by Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) Real Estate, a German developer, in late 2007 that were to be named after famous sport stars.

He filed a lawsuit against ACI in March last year to try to recover more than Dh1 million (US$272,000) he had invested in the project, which was due to be completed this year but is about 20 months late.

According to a judgment from Dubai Courts that has been seen by The National, the courts rendered Mr Oakeley’s agreement with ACI for one of the units “void” and ordered the company to pay back Dh569,585, plus 5 per cent interest from the date Mr Oakeley started court proceedings.

The case was won because ACI had failed to register the property with Dubai’s Land Department, according to court documents. A property contract is valid only when it is registered with the department.

Mr Oakeley’s victory was muted, however, as he lost the case for a second unit on which he spent Dh695,000, because it was registered.

The investor is appealing against the second decision through Dubai’s Court of Cassation.

Despite spending thousands of dirhams taking the case to court, and risking losing the judgment on the first unit, Mr Oakeley said he would continue the fight.

“It’s like throwing good money after bad, but having two units makes it worthwhile,” he said.

With most developers grappling with a shortage of cash, Mr Oakeley also has the challenge of getting the court’s order enforced.

Unless a project is officially cancelled by Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency, cash kept in an escrow account, in which developers must by law deposit all investors’ money, must be used to fund construction, however long that might take.

“It’s all well and good getting a court order to get your money back, but does the developer have the money?” said Duane Keighran, the deputy head of property for the MENA region at the law firm Simmons and Simmons.

“There are a number of developers in town who wouldn’t have enough in the escrow account to refund investors; and money they do have will be used for construction. Investors can go to ACI themselves, with the court order and ask for the money, or the court can do it, but it’s unclear what the recourse would be after that.”

Saqer Engineering and Contracting Enterprises was awarded a contract in late 2008 to build the Niki Lauda project, but has since slowed work.

Mahmoud Younis, the managing partner at Saqer, said the project could take a further 20 months to complete.

“It’s ongoing but it is very slow … because of the cash flow,” he said.

Robin Lohmann, the managing director of ACI, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, work on two other towers that were to be named after former tennis champion Boris Becker and the F1 driver Michael Schumacher is also behind schedule.

Becker also owns a share in the Boris Becker Beach Resort and Tennis Academy, a Dh3 billion resort planned by ACI on Al Marjan Island in Ras al Khaimah.

Source: The National