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In a city of huge projects, the Waterfront was to trump them all.

At a ceremony revealing the plans in 2005, executives from Nakheel, the Dubai World subsidiary that created Dubai’s Palm islands and The World archipelago, described the project that would balloon into a 130 square kilometre piece of land that would one day have enough homes and offices for 1.5 million people. It would be a new city that would unify two other massive projects: the reclaimed Palm Jebel Ali and a 75km waterway through the desert called the Arabian Canal. It would cost Dh100 billion (US$27.22bn).

Not only was the Waterfront Nakheel’s largest project, but it also formed the backbone of the company’s multibillion-dollar financing strategy. Waterfront land valued at Dh7.6bn was used to secure three Islamic bonds issued by Nakheel with a total value of $5.25bn. The sprawling project will play a major part in Dubai World’s restructuring proposal to creditors in the next few months as the conglomerate weighs which phases will be built and which should be scaled back or redesigned in the aftermath of the property decline.

“All details concerning Waterfront are currently being determined as part of the restructuring Nakheel is undergoing,” a Nakheel spokeswoman said.

Proposals for the Waterfront showed everything from an underwater hotel to a “city-within-a-city” on a square island designed by Rem Koolhaas, the renowned Dutch architect and theorist. One building would be shaped like a sphere; others were buildings shaped like asymmetrical stacks of paper.

“It was the creme-de-la-creme project,” said one former chief executive of a property developer with a project at the site. “The mock-up plan for the Waterfront was like a new Manhattan on the sea.”

Five years after the project was announced, construction has ground to a halt, and the patch of desert – a full 65 per cent of Nakheel’s land holdings – has become the object of dozens of disputes and even corruption allegations.

The global downturn sparked a domino effect bringing down economies and megaprojects around the world, and one of the last, and perhaps biggest dominoes in this region, to fall was Nakheel’s Waterfront.

“Now it’s all changed,” said the former chief executive, who did not want to be named. “Customers are suing the developer. The developer is suing the master developer. Cheques are bouncing. Contractors haven’t been paid.”

More than Dh10bn is tied up in land and off-plan apartment sales, according to investors and developers. Nakheel is expected to address these investments in its restructuring proposal. A recent visit to the Waterfront showed sand covering construction equipment and no people except for police officers in a patrol car and a pair of security guards at an entry point – in contrast to the 20,000 workers and 3,000 construction vehicles Nakheel said were on the site in February 2008.

The state of the Waterfront project is in some ways emblematic of the delays and disputes that have proliferated amid the decline of the property sector in Dubai during the global downturn, analysts say. It was the biggest project ever announced by one of Dubai’s biggest state-owned developers, an expression of the emirate’s ambitions. As Nakheel rethinks its largest projects and negotiates with banks over how it will repay money borrowed to finance such developments, much of the Waterfront is in a kind of limbo, Nakheel is struggling through its debt load, developers are in turn hesitant to build awaiting Nakheel’s fate, and investors are suing developers with dimming prospects for their investments.

Nakheel has made progress on two areas of the project, Veneto and Badrah, where the company was building villas. It has nearly finished a large canal that would form a central feature of the first phase, the Madinat al Arab. Individual plots of land facing the sea, where developers have said they would build high-rise luxury towers, are mostly undeveloped.

Investors who put their money with Omniyat Properties, a Dubai-based developer that bought land in the Waterfront and planned a project there, tell a common story. Attracted by Omniyat’s marketing machine – the company spent millions of dirhams advertising apartment buildings there – they poured money in during the run-up to the crisis, betting that Dubai’s soaring property market would keep rising. Now they are locked in a battle with the developer over how much construction it is contractually obliged to complete before demanding any more payments from them.

One of Omniyat’s projects, the Beachfront Living tower, sold more than 200 apartments and collected Dh314.7 million, according to an official review of the project’s escrow account by Caliber Middle East, a consultancy that advises Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority. Of that money and other funds Omniyat invested in the project, Caliber’s review shows, the company spent Dh237m on land payments and Dh101.6m on marketing expenses. Just Dh738,866 was spent on construction. The project has yet to move past the initial stages.

Omniyat declined to comment.

As if that weren’t enough infighting for one project, two former Waterfront executives, MJ and ML, were arrested in Dubai in January last year on suspicion of fraud relating to the project, and both were formally charged in July. A separate court case is under way in Australia in which Sunland Group, a developer based in the state of Queensland, has alleged that MJ helped engineer a deal under which Sunland paid a Dh44.1m consultancy fee in exchange for receiving below-market prices on land in the Waterfront. The cases are still pending, and MJ’s lawyers in Dubai and Australia did not comment.

In the meantime, Nakheel has been in negotiations with land owners at the Waterfront to shift them to other projects in the company’s portfolio such as The World islands and the remaining plots on the Palm Jumeirah.

The issue is simple: without sales or financing, Nakheel will have difficulty completing the Waterfront’s infrastructure in the near future. And yet Nakheel wants a solution that does not involve defaulting on its contractual responsibilities and being forced to pay back investors’ deposits.

But some of the development companies have disappeared altogether, leaving even more problems in their wake. One of the biggest Waterfront developers in the early days of the project was Define Properties, which was established in 2008 just as the property boom was subsiding.

The company bought 12 plots of land at the Waterfront and pledged to spend Dh8bn on residential and commercial projects throughout Dubai, according to statements at the time.

“Most of the money came from Russians,” said James Harrington, who worked for the company as a human resources consultant for several months. “They paid the initial payments on the land. The problems started when they couldn’t get enough money to keep up with the land payments.”

Alternative Capital Invest (ACI), another property developer, took over Define’s Niki Lauda Twin Towers after construction stalled and the future of the project became uncertain. ACI had marketed and sold the units in the building, but Define was responsible for building it. ACI declined to comment.

Henceforth, the Waterfront will probably focus on the same section that it started with, the Madinat al Arab, a stretch of beachfront surrounded by a man-made marina in much the same pattern as the nearby Dubai Marina. The first phase of the beachfront was sold out in five days for more than Dh13bn in 2005. However, construction stopped before any buildings took shape.

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At the end of this month the book about the ‘Queen of Fraud’ Malika Karoum will be released in Amsterdam.

Click on the book for a preview:

image3821

This book will show the truth, the whole truth and nothing else but the truth about Malika Karoum and all the crimes she committed.

Don’t hesitate to buy this book, it will be a real ‘eye opener’.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

While Australians languished in Dubai jails, a much bigger fish made fraudulent millions with impunity. This glamorous but treacherous spy is finally behind bars, writes Rick Feneley.

Drieluik MalikaThey call her the modern-day Mata Hari, a spy-turned-criminal who laundered fortunes from drug runners and arms dealers through Dubai’s high-rise wonderland.

Alternatively, they have cast Malika Karoum as an innocent woman, a fugitive not from the law but from an abusive husband who maliciously defamed her – and concocted the whole spy-crime thriller – as part of a bitter custody battle for their young son.

The Netherlands media have been wrestling over the two Karoums for a year. The 33-year-old Dutch-Moroccan’s exotic good looks made great fodder for magazines, newspapers and tabloid television. But on Wednesday this week came the bombshell. The cover story of Revu, a quality weekly magazine, announced: ”Spy Malika in the cell.”

Only now could it reveal that Karoum had been in jail for the past six months in Egypt, where the Ismailiya State Security Court convicted her in April of money laundering and involvement in weapons trading, but acquitted her of espionage.

Karoum, who had also performed intelligence work for Egypt, had been sentenced to 28 months in prison, and the Court of Appeal had upheld the decision last month.

More sensational, though, is the news of how Karoum was caught. In a top-secret operation, her former colleagues from the Dutch secret service arrived at her Dubai apartment at 2am on January 21. They held her there for several weeks under house arrest before taking her to Egypt, an intelligence source has told Revu’s reporter Jan Libbenga. Dubai has no extradition treaty with the Netherlands. The Dutch, in effect, abducted Karoum only after negotiations with her lawyers, to bring her back to Amsterdam, broke down.

Four days after the swoop on Karoum’s home, Dubai police arrested two Australians, Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee, on suspicion of fraud. The pair are former executives of Dubai Waterfront, the world’s grandest waterfront project, a subsidiary of the Emirate’s biggest property developer, the government-owned Nakheel.

The jailed Australians, who are fighting to prove their innocence, are in no way linked to Karoum.

Karoum – using her apparent cover as a real estate executive – did do some work on property developments within Dubai Waterfront, among other sites. She was accused of funnelling drug and arms money – including that of an Egyptian weapons dealer – into Dubai’s property bubble, which burst spectacularly last year. Millions invested through her by criminal networks are said to have vanished.

While Joyce and Lee and other Australians languish in Dubai’s jails, the Karoum story throws light on the way business is done in the Emirate. The sheikhdom is making a big show of cleaning up corruption in its property industry, but it showed no apparent interest in stopping Karoum. Indeed, Libbenga says, she ended up spying for the United Arab Emirates, too, and it offered her protection. She had also spied for Egypt.

Her old Dutch colleagues could well understand the analogy with the original Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a seductress who became a double agent during World War I, working for both French and German spymasters.

Karoum joined the Dutch secret service in 2004, Revu says. Most of her work had concerned secret investigations of Islamic organisations in the Netherlands suspected of terrorist aid. She was sent to Dubai late in 2006 to investigate terrorist financing and money laundering to and from Dubai. Once there, she soon defected to her own cause: making money.

For her Dutch spymasters, the alarm rang in October 2007, when a Dutch-Turkish money courier was arrested at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, with more than €100,000. He said it was to be collected by Karoum. This man was not known to her spy colleagues.

The secret service contacted police. It transpired that observation teams from the Bureau of National Research had photographs of a woman in the company of Dutch drug dealers. Only then did they realise it was Karoum.

Now authorities suspect Karoum played an important role in drug trafficking, Revu reported.

Karoum had managed to slip back into the Netherlands at the time of the man’s arrest, but she escaped via Madrid and Casablanca to Dubai. She left her hire car behind, with a note to the hire company, in a garage in the town of Breukelen. Diplomatic pressure on Dubai failed to have her returned to the Netherlands.

The Herald began trying to find Karoum in early February this year. As late as April our calls were being transferred to her extension at ACI Real Estate in Dubai, the subsidiary of a German-based company. Like many caught in the Arab Emirate’s collapsing real estate market, ACI is struggling to complete grand visions such as its Sports Trilogy: the Niki Lauda Twin Towers, the Boris Becker Business Tower and Michael Schumacher Business Avenue. ACI’s switch repeatedly told the Herald that Karoum was, indeed, still working there. But messages went unanswered, as did emails to Karoum’s address with the firm, requesting a detailed response to the many allegations against her. Now we know why.

Also in February, Political News of Morocco editorialised that Karoum was giving its emigrants a bad name and asked why Dubai was doing nothing about her. Now we know that the Dutch secret service already had.

In a webcast by Panorama Magazine late last year, Karoum said the whole story against her was a lie, created by her former husband Mohammed Boulnouar. She said she had fled the Netherlands because he had mentally and physically abused her.

Jacques Smits, an Amsterdam private investigator (www.interrescue.nl) and former policeman , has been on Karoum’s trail since January last year. He was originally employed by Boulnouar to hunt her down in Dubai and retrieve their son, Mohammed jnr, now aged about eight.

In February last year Smits flew to Dubai, hoping to confront Karoum. He had already intervened and warned her then employer, the Dubai property firm Omniyat, about Karoum. The company went on to sack Karoum and her boss for alleged fraud.

Smits only managed to get Karoum by phone. He told the Herald: ”She said, ‘I am going to kill you.’ I had ruined her life in Dubai.”

He believes she is capable of it, and this motivated his campaign to bring her to justice, long after he stopped working for her husband. A Dutch court later ordered Karoum to return her son to the Netherlands, then overturned that ruling last December.

Either way, Smits is no friend of Boulnouar, who had been a travel agent in West Amsterdam. He says Boulnouar paid him only €7000 ($12,000) and still owes him €10,000. Smits says he helped Dutch intelligence to keep pursuing Karoum.

Last November customers accused Boulnouar of stealing the money they had paid him for the haj to Mecca. He had claimed he was the victim of a robbery on October 31 when he tried to deliver about €300,000 in cash and several hundred passports to Royal Jordanian Airways. He claimed the robbers told him they were sent by ”Malika”.

Smits does not buy his story. Nor does he buy Karoum’s. In January last year Smits received a tip that she was returning to the Netherlands for a wedding. He says he went to Schiphol Airport and, armed with photographs, alerted a Dutch military police officer. The officer had called up Karoum’s Interpol file, then left the room briefly to get the print-out of the document. Smits says he was able to read the warrant on the screen. ”There were six or seven felonies.” They included money laundering and drug offences.

Dutch police observation teams had seen a woman in the company of a British man, Simon John ”Slapper” Cowmeadow. Only later did they realise she was Karoum. Cowmeadow was shot dead in an Amsterdam street on November 18, 2007.

Nadim Imac, a suspected heroin importer and the sponsor of a Dutch soccer team, Turkiyemspor, was thrown to his death from a moving bus on February 17 this year. Police found €223,000 in his home.

A player from his soccer team had acted as a money courier to Dubai, where money from a Turk associate of Imac’s was invested in Damac Properties. Karoum had handled that introduction.

Revu has reported on Karoum’s connections with the Dutch company Palm Invest, which has come under the spotlight for alleged fraud. Karoum’s old boss at Omniyat took her with him in June last year when he launched Define Properties in Dubai. Define had 12 lots on Nakheel’s Waterfront site, and relied heavily for funds on a key Karoum contact, an Egyptian arms dealer. But when stories began circulating about Karoum, the boss sacked her.

Later, Define could not raise enough capital and ACI Real Estate took over some of its properties. It first employed the Define boss, but dumped him after recruiting Karoum. ACI has not responded to the Herald’s questions.

From last December Karoum’s lawyers advised her to co-operate with Dutch authorities. Revu reported she was offered an ”ample golden handshake” from the secret service and an opportunity to start a new life in a third country. Los Angeles, Singapore, Luxembourg, Malta, Egypt and the Dutch Antilles were destinations recommended.

The Dutch, more than anything, wanted to stop her giving intelligence to other countries, and to stop her criminal pursuits.

Karoum had seemed agreeable but withdrew at the last moment. She reportedly believed she would be afforded the protection of sheikhs in Dubai. That came to nothing at 2am on January 21.

In most countries the snatching of Karoum – a breach of sovereignty – would have caused a diplomatic crisis. But there has not been a peep out of Dubai, which does not care about bad publicity.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it could not answer any of the Herald’s questions, on privacy grounds. The names of even convicted criminals are protected in the Netherlands.

Jan Libbenga will publish a book, The Hunt for Malika, Modern Mata Hari, in October.

Jacques Smits says an estimated €90 million is still missing from Karoum’s crimes and the Dutch secret service may recruit him to help retrieve it.

”If the price is right, I’m your guy,” he told the Herald. Smits says he feels safe until Karoum’s release from jail – but only until then.

Malika Karoum, de voormalige spionne uit Slotervaart die ervan verdacht wordt vanuit haar standplaats Dubai internationale drugstransporten te financieren, is in Egypte tot achtentwintig maanden gevangenisstraf veroordeeld voor het witwassen van crimineel geld en betrokkenheid bij wapenhandel. Dat onthult Revu deze week in een exclusieve reportage waaraan maanden voorbereiding vooraf is gegaan. Een nationale veiligheidsrechtbank in Ismailiya (Egypte) heeft op 5 en 19 april in drie zittingen de Nederlands-Marokkaanse veroordeeld tot achtentwintig maanden gevangenisstraf. Malika had zes jaar kunnen krijgen, maar werd vrijgesproken op verdenking van contraspionage. In hoger beroep, begin juli, kreeg zij dezelfde straf opgelegd. De berechting volgde na haar aanhouding begin 2009.

cover-malika

Ongeveer een jaar geleden onthulde Revu als eerste het verhaal van de Nederlands-Marokkaanse Malika Karoum, een rijzende ster bij de Nederlandse inlichtingendienst die eind 2006 naar Dubai was vertrokken om voor meerdere diensten informatie te vergaren over terroristische en criminele geldstromen. Najaar 2007, bij de aanhouding van een geldkoerier op Schiphol, werd duidelijk dat zij een Mata Hari-achtige dubbelrol vervulde en mogelijk zelf de financiering van drugstransporten had gefaciliteerd. Malika bleef dat overigens ontkennen. Uitlevering aan Nederland leverde echter problemen op omdat er geen wederzijds uitleveringsverdrag tussen Dubai en Nederland bestaat. Vandaar naar Egypte werd uitgeweken.

Haar advocaten deden de affaire vorig jaar nog grotendeels af als leugens van haar ex-man, die in een jaren slepende voogdijzaak met Malika was verwikkeld. Die zaak werd eind 2008 in zijn nadeel beslecht, toen het hof oordeelde dat Malika’s zoontje bij haar in Dubai mocht blijven. De man was ondergedoken nadat hij was beroofd van honderden paspoorten en geld van Mekkagangers die tickets bij zijn Amsterdamse reisbureau hadden besteld. B. meldde zich pas begin 2009 weer bij de politie en blijft verdachte in de zaak.

Who’s already the biggest real estate criminal in the

UAE over the year 2009?

Number 1

maktoum-hasher-juma-maktoum-afp-al-fajer-ebony-ivory-20091

Maktoum Hasher Juma Al Maktoum,
President AL Fajer Properties Dubai

Number 2

Lohmann BrandMaster

Robin Lohmann

CEO Alternative Capital Investement – ACI Dubai

Number 3

Malikagezicht

Malika Karoum / Define / ACI

or are all three ready to be fried on the BBQ?

Inshalaaaaaaa


Please, place your reaction/vote by a comment.

Posted by 7starsdubai on June 29, 2009

Comment from : complain.aci June 28, 2009 at 1:13 pm

REQUEST FOR CONTACTS

The press releases in Germany did lead to an enourmous media recognition.
Actually, there are several serious national and international requests, looking now for “ACI victims” here.

Thus, we are looking for

a) unit buyers with running cases,

b) suppliers running behind their moneys,

c) other serious detailed information.

Please, no gossip or twitters. Just facts.

As a first step, we can be contacted via E-Mail, complain.aci@gmail.com

Malika smilegroot

As far as we remeber the Niki Lauda “Twin” Towers should be a project of ACI / Define and now, afters months of waiting, promisses etc. etc. the constructionsite looks like this:

nl-towers

Amazing how the works comes to an ‘end’.