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An Al Ain-based investor has threatened to take one of the leading Abu Dhabi property developers to the court.

Dr Rajeev Gupta, an Indian cardiologist, has warned that he would sue Long Coast, a real estate and property contracting company, if it fails to deliver on time his two units he has booked in their project at Shams Abu Dhabi on Reem Island.

Long Coast, one of the sub-developers of Sorouh’ flagship Shams Abu Dhabi development, is building Creek Tower One and Two on the island.

According to Gupta, he has booked two units in Creek Tower Two costing Dh1.3 million and Dh1.7m each in July 2007 and was promised delivery by December 2009.

He told Emirates Business he has been pursuing both the master developer and sub-developers about the progress on the project for months but has not received a convincing response, and is now forced to seek court intervention.

“The construction work on the project has not started whereas delivery was proposed to be in December this year, and now we are only two months away. Obviously there would be a huge delay in delivering the units.

“I have been making all the payments regularly up to now,” he said.

When contacted Sorouh said it was a matter between the buyer and the sub-developers as the Creek Towers were not a Sorouh development, and their role was limited as being the master developer of the entire Shams Abu Dhabi.

“As master developer for Shams Abu Dhabi, Sorouh continues to fulfil and meet all its obligations towards sub-developers such as Long Coast. The matter in question probably relates to an agreement freely entered into between the purchaser and the sub-developer, to which Sorouh is not a party,” said Sorouh in a statement when asked for comments.

Long Coast said the delay was caused by late land delivery and other regulatory obligations and reasons that were beyond their control.

An official, asking not to be named, said the investor was explained about all the problems and was even offered to find a new buyer for the two units for a better offer, “but he does not want that. As per the agreement he cannot cancel the two units while the project is under way”.

“We explained all the reason. We are going by all the rules and regulations, and the hand over of the units is delayed, we are obliged to pay him penalties as per the agreement. If he wants to go to the court, he is free to do that because everyone has a freedom in this country and all the rules and regulations apply to all,” he said.

Gupta said he has been advised by the company to go to the court if he wanted to. “Developers are exploiting people because of the lack of the authority, and people are losing confidence and that is affecting the UAE economy.”

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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:

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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.

“Al Fajer Properties, which is controlled by a powerful sheikh from a ruling family using the government agency platform, continues to mislead the public about their non-existing construction with false reports as evident in their recent press release claiming 15% construction where in reality it is a deserted site with no construction at all.”

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

Sheikh Maktoum Bin Hasher Al Maktoum

Malika smilegroot

Deutsche ACI vertreibt Fonds seit 2008 auch in Österreich

Vier Dubai-Fonds der deutschen Fondsgesellschaft Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) sind möglicherweise in Schieflage geraten. ACI vertreibt seit 2008 die Dubai-Fonds auch in Österreich. Der Dubai Fonds VI, der mit Niki Lauda am Prospekt warb (siehe unten, weil der Fonds in die Niki-Lauda Twin Towers in Dubai investiert), war der erste Fonds, für den auch ein Prospekt in Österreich hinterlegt wurde. Aktuell geht es um die Vorgängerfonds II bis V. Diese können vorerst keine Ausschüttungen leisten, berichtet Fondstelegramm.de unter Bezugnahme auf ein Schreiben der ACI an ihre Anleger. Ein Verkauf der Fondsimmobilien sei zwar vertraglich vereinbart, jedoch habe der Erwerber entgegen einer früheren Zusage seiner Bank keine Kredite erhalten, so die “Welt”. “Einer Auflösung der Fonds II bis V zum 31. Dezember 2008 steht derzeit nichts im Wege”, verkündete ACI noch am 9. Dezember 2008 in einer Aussendung. Der Börse Express ging dem nach: Am Firmensitz in Gütersloh hiess es, der zuständige Fondsmanager sei derzeit nicht zu erreichen, sonst könne leider niemand Auskunft geben. Bei der Österreich-Koordinatorin, Ok-System Invest GmbH, ging am Mittwoch erst beim dritten Versuch jemand ans Telefon. Ok-System verwies allerdings wieder nach Gütersloh, man sei dafür nicht zuständig. Mit einer Investitionssumme von 474,5 Mio. Euro ist ACI nach einer Marktstudie der Beteiligungsmodelle von Feri EuroRating der grösste Anbieter von Dubai-Fonds in Deutschland.
Traumrenditen versprochen
Die Auszahlungen an die 6000 Anleger aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz seien bislang “wie prospektiert” getätigt worden, steht auf der Homepage. Seit 2008 wurden Dubai-Fonds von ACI auch in Österreich über Finanzdienstleister angeboten. Eine Beteiligung war ab 10.000 Euro zuzüglich 5% Agio möglich. Den Anlegern wurden Renditen von 12% p.a. und mehr in Aussicht gestellt. Investoren haben in den vergangenen Jahren für Milliardenbeträge Bürotürme und Hotels in Dubai errichtet und damit eine gewaltige Spekulationsblase geschaffen, die mit dem Beginn der Subprime-Krise platzte. Verbraucherschützer warnten schon 2005 vor Engagements im Immobilienmarkt des Öl-Emirats am Persischen Golf gewarnt.

A tale of scorpion and the turtle

We all know the famous story about a scorpion asking a turtle to carry him across a river. The turtle is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the turtle, the turtle would sink and the scorpion would drown as well. The turtle then agrees; nevertheless, in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, “I’m a scorpion; it’s my nature.”

Before investing in Dubai property market I have been warned about the ways and means of merchants and rulers from the Gulf. At the time I choose to ignore them, now I am not so sure I have made the right decision.

Dubai market has exploded in the past few years and attracted many foreign investors to participate in a very lucrative business based on off plan project model and huge potential profit. Most of the buyers were speculators who only wanted to invest in part of property process and later sell it with huge profit expectations. Dubai has had very small number of end user investors.

This business model was perfect until market price was rising and there was still enough interest for speculation. Developers also added their pot into this game by speculating with period when to sell off plan units. So they didn’t want to sell all units at once but rather gradually selling units by progressing of time. They wanted to get piece of profit cake as well protect themselves in the case of increasing construction expenses based on USD oscillation (AED is pegged to USD).

After recession started this seemingly perfect “business” collapsed for both sides Developers as well as Investors (speculators). Speculators over invested themselves and was never able to sustain whole investment in property. Their plan was to invest in short time as much as possible and sell it as soon as possible. But after market collapsed there was not any more buyers neither end users nor speculators. The whole construction progress gets stuck. Developers in the same time was circumvented Law commenced in the last few years. Mostly they have violated Law no 8 especially obligation to register every project with RERA and open separate account for each project solely. They did not open escrow accounts or they have open one and collect money on it and misconduct escrow agents, authority and at last investors that their money is save and exactly dedicated for the invested project. Many of accounts were depleted based on such mismatches and disability (intentional or unintentional) of authority to control developers. But frankly is there (in authority) anybody so bold to apply law to developers whose owners are close to top people in UAE?

Now there is question how to solve this situation? On one side there are Developers whose ownership is more or less in hands of top UAE people. And on the other side there are Investors and speculators who are mostly coming from outside. Who will be protected and who will be punished in this polarization is out of question. The question is just how to legally do it? After Developers spent most of investors money and they did not commence any construction they are in very delicate situation how to overcome this problem and not put on bankruptcy track. The authority came with solution how legally protect developers (read UAE people) and pull them out of trouble but at the same time show the world how they take care about investors and represent themselves as high standard rule of law country.

In summary most of I investors are going to lose money and almost all developers will have ability to legally cover illegally spent money.
The sliding scale and Law No 9 cannot be read in any other way than as in accordance with explanation above. Everybody who is reading Law No 9 in details will see that billions of money will be (now legally) stolen from investors. Can anybody imagine how to finance even 10-20% of purchased units without having help from any Bank today? So even if investors paid almost the whole amount they will lost all money. Speculators who never paid more than 30% will lose their entire investment.

So, dear fellows, find your position in this game and think about it! The only side who will benefit will be the domestic people who spent the money and still have at least plot in their hands as well as full basket of money on private accounts.

No one is spreading rumors. The current financial crises are kind of blessing in disguise which made consumer more vigilant in their spendings. Now, Those who never cared for $$ are even counting pennies. In present situation as consumers we are more careful as where to spend, what to buy, and what is the output. We think not only twice but may be in some instance ten time to even spend money even on “Starbucks and Costa” which was not a big deal before.

Having said that, I want all those who are saying that non-registration of the units and other irregularities by SP are rumors, do their homework, and as Redsearick well said “Go to the source” instead of hearing from here and there. You will have better results.

Yes, I do believe some building will be completed in thousand years and hopefully the financial situation will be improved but we are talking about now and all the delays which are affecting our lives on daily bases. One of the investors I know is losing custody of her daughter just because she gave her whole saving to SP. My life has been crippled just because I handed over all my saving to them with no foreseeable return, I had to now extend my rental contract for other two and half years which money could very well used towards my installments.

Now they are threatening me of cancellation of my unit. So, what option do we have? I did not give my saving for domes of Sand.

I think all of us are willing to work with SP management as long as they show us some results pertain to individual’s unit. If my building is not on the ground and who knows if it ever be there (Zone 6 ), then they should not even ask the payment until they show us the structure and I think that’s what the law says “No more than 30% payment until there is 20% construction). I have already paid them 50% which is way more than the threshold.

I wish everyone best of luck

Anita Henry, a British teacher who has invested in a one-bedroom apartment at Dubai Lagoons, now faces a double whammy. So does Purvi Beri, an Indian advertising executive, and many other investors.

The units they bought are delayed for two years and the developer, Schon Properties, is “stonewalling” them.

“It now costs me Dh8,000 per month to rent, as they have delayed this build,” said Henry. “Now, they have advised me of a December 2010 completion – how disgusting is that?”

She said her one-bedroom unit at Dubai Lagoons – a 52-building project at the Dubai Investments Park (DIP) – was scheduled for a June 2008 handover.

“They have no intention of compensating anyone. I had planned my kids’ schooling around this,” she said.

Major payment

“In 2007, I sold my house in the UK and invested that money in a one-bedroom unit at Dubai Lagoons for Dh480,000,” said Henry, who has paid more than 63 per cent of the property price.

Purvi Beri is in the same bind due to the delay. “I am stuck. I took out a bank loan for Dh250,000 to be able to buy this unit. I sold property in India to survive and take care of my son’s fees. Since my property has not been handed over as promised, I was forced to move to my sister’s place. Now, the developers are asking me to pay more, but I’m not going to because the construction hasn’t even happened.”

Asher Schon, Vice-President of Schon Properties, said, “The project has been set back a little, due to numerous reasons,” he said.

“Firstly, the expansion of the two-lane road into a six-lane highway took out about 40 metres off our plot. Secondly, there was an internal feud between partners of our first contractor so we replaced them. We negotiated with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), who were cooperative. We are also working with investors to move them into zones that will be completed earlier,” said Schon.

He added that none of their projects have been put on hold.

Jumeirah Waves Business Towers project in Jumeirah Village South remains undeveloped more than two years after investors purchased units from developer.

in Dubai who have bought units in the Jumeirah Waves Business Towers (JWBT), a commercial development project comprises 3 identical towers located in Jumeirah Village South (JVS), are urging government authorities in Dubai, Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) and master Developer of the JVS project, Nakheel, to intervene in an ongoing dispute with the project developer High Rise Properties, a protracted conflict that the complainants claim could potentially hurt the overall investor confidence in Dubai and ultimately deliver a negative impact on Dubai and the United Arab Emirates’investment landscape. A number of European investors revealed that the developer has not started any substantial work on the JWBT developments and has also been unwilling to entertain requests by investors for a refund and compensation since selling to them the units almost two and a half years ago.

The affected investors claimed that up to 50 per cent of the entire units in the 3 towers have been sold out, while buyers have paid between 15 to 60 per cent of the total amount of their respective units. The complainants further said that they do not believe that the delay in the start of construction of the JWBT has been caused by the ongoing global financial crisis since construction work on the project was actually supposed to have started more than two years ago – at the height of the real estate boom in Dubai and the region.

“It has been more than two years since our group and other investors have purchased units in the JWBT development; but until now the project area is still undeveloped and the developer –High Rise Properties- has remained elusive and unable to give us a reasonable time table for the development. There is certainly a breakdown in transparency and accountability somewhere and we urge the concerned government authorities in Dubai, mainly RERA and Nakheel, to step in and resolve this problem before it goes out of hand and negatively affect investor confidence in Dubai,” said Richard Moore, a representative of the affected European investors.

“High rise Properties have given a lot of excuses and promises, but nothing concrete has been done to at least make the investors feel that their investments are being safeguarded. It is not just the money that we have invested in this project that”s at stake here; this kind of attitude by a developer will certainly cause further damage to the reputation of Dubai”s real estate sector at a time when the industry is supposed to be consolidating its forces and building its image to limit the ill-effects of the global financial crisis,” added Moore.

The investors further pointed out that the JWBT developer, High Rise Properties, a company controlled by the influential and powerful Al Tayer family, has earlier made several excuses for being unable to start the project, including an alleged two-year delay in the turnover of the allocated land. The investors also claimed that the project has been registered with RERA, which makes the developer and its owner Abdul Hakim Al Tayer, fully accountable to the government. However, the complainants have urged concerned authorities to act swiftly and with full transparency on the matter as they fear that Al Tayer family may use its clout to influence the result of any investigation that may arise.

“Abdul Hakim Al Tayer and the management of High Rise Properties have been uncooperative and we are left with no other resource but to ask the government to help us settle this issue. Naturally, we can”t allow our investments to lay idle for an extended period without knowing what the future holds for the project. Moreover, there is obviously something wrong within this organisation considering it has been two years and they have not made any effort to push this project or reach a settlement with affected investors. Surely, the government must take a look at this case, considering its potential impact on the future of Dubai”s investment climate,” concluded Moore.