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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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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 hmeyer4@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

Hahn Rechtsanwälte Partnerschaft (hrp) bereitet eine erste Pilotklage gegen die Alternative Capital Invest GmbH & Co. KG (ACI), die beiden Treuhandkommanditistinnen sowie die Hamburger Finanzkontor GmbH & Co. KG vor und wird die Klage in den nächsten Tagen beim Landgericht Hamburg einreichen. Dabei macht die Ehefrau des Anlegers die Schadensersatzansprüche aus abgetretenem Recht geltend.

Ein Hamburger Kaufmann hatte sich in den Jahren 2005 und 2006 als Privatanleger auf Empfehlung seines Anlageberaters unter anderem an der Alternative Capital Invest GmbH & Co. II bzw. III. Dubai Tower KG beteiligt und ihm ist dadurch ein Schaden von etwa 245.000,00 EUR entstanden. Nach Auffassung von hrp hat sich die ACI schadensersatzpflichtig gemacht. Aufgrund der Angaben der in den Prospekten abgedruckten Gesellschaftsverträge muss der Leser zu dem Ergebnis gelangen, dass die  Fondsgesellschaften die Grundstücke in eigenem Namen halten. Dies ist in der Praxis jedoch nicht der Fall. Bei der III. Dubai Fonds Tower KG ist die sogenannte „Dubai Branch“, die als unselbständige Niederlassung der Komplementärin in Dubai eingetragen ist, als Treuhänderin für die Fondsgesellschaft Eigentümerin des Grundstücks. Das Grundstück der II. Dubai Fonds Tower KG wird weiterhin von der Verkäuferin als Eigentümerin gehalten.

Es macht aus Sicht von hrp einen großen Unterschied, ob die Fondsgesellschaft oder deren Komplementärin Eigentümerin eines Grundstücks ist. Hinzu kommt, dass die ACI Branch ohne Genehmigung der Anleger die registrierten Käufer der II. Dubai Fonds Tower KG auf die III. Dubai Tower KG übertragen hat. Dies könnte den Straftatbestand der Untreue verwirklichen. Mittlerweile hat auch die Staatsanwaltschaft Bielefeld ein Ermittlungsverfahren gegen Verantwortliche der ACI eingeleitet und am 22.06.2010 die Büroräume der ACI in Gütersloh durchsucht. In einer Presseerklärung vom 24.06.2010 teilt die Staatsanwaltschaft diesbezüglich mit, dass die gewonnenen Erkenntnisse den Verdacht des Kapitalanlagebetruges bisher nicht erhärten konnten. Eine genaue Auswertung der vorgefundenen Unterlagen bleibe insoweit abzuwarten.

Nach Auffassung von Anlegeranwalt Peter Hahn aus Hamburg wird es höchste Zeit, dass die Gesellschafter der verschiedenen ACI-Dubai-Fonds sich untereinander austauschen und zivilrechtlich durch einen Fachanwalt die Geltendmachung von Schadensersatzansprüchen prüfen lassen. „Insbesondere Anleger mit einer eintrittspflichtigen Rechtsschutzversicherung sollten sich von den Verantwortlichen der ACI nicht weiter vertrösten lassen. Wenn die Anleger weiterhin nichts unternehmen“, so Anwalt Hahn weiter, „droht eine Verjährung ihrer Schadensersatzansprüche“.

Hamburg: 30.07.2010

Lack of communication from developers coupled with trying time for sector leave investors fuming

Investors in the UAE’s real estate are a frustrated lot, but not just because the sector is in the throes of the worst-ever slowdown it has witnessed. That’s a known fact, and most investors have reconciled to it.

However, what is not known and, therefore, much more frustrating, is the status of the projects in which they have invested their hard-fought cash.

Many developers in the country have apparently chosen to not communicate with their clients about when the stalled projects are going to take off and when will they be delivered, if at all.

Property blogs and social media sites are full of frustrated investors venting their ire.

A good proportion of such investors do not reside in the country and, therefore, have to depend on communication from the developer and their websites to figure out the status of their investments.

With the websites of most developers updated on a regular basis, and not communication forthcoming from them, such investors are resorting to blogs such as www.skyscrapercity.com http://www.skyscrapercity.com to voice their anger.

“…was told last week, in an e-mail from [the developer], that handover is now March 2011. So, that will be over 4 years since I chose to invest in [the project]. I’m sure it will happen eventually but this constant re-scheduling of end dates is very frustrating,” a user who went with the skyscrapercity.com http://skyscrapercity.com ID of tonydubai wrote on July 24.

At least tonydubai seemed to have received some kind of communication from the developer. Some of the others have not been so lucky. “I invested in a project in 2007, which was supposed to be delivered in 2009,” a senior media executive told Emirates 24|7.

“Not only has the project not even taken off the ground, [the developer] has not communicated with me at all, in spite of the fact that I kept paying my instalments until end-2008,” he said.

“They refuse to entertain my emailed queries or on the phone, and despite having numerous face-to-face meetings with the company’s junior staff, I have no idea if the project will ever see the light of the day,” he shrugged.

He isn’t alone. Some investors claim that their developers are short-changing them by saddling them with a much smaller properties compared with what they originally paid for.

Some other are upset about the miscommunication and false assurances meted out to them during the sales process.

This is what user pki had to say on May 11: “I am an investor in [project] and interested in any routes to get my investment back. It is not an option to switch to another development as I need the money (or as much of it as I can get back) to pay my mortgage on my home and not upset my bank.

“Does anyone know of anyway to get the investment back?

“They forced me to sign my contract by threatening to keep my deposit (under UK law this is duress so I would be entitled to cancel and get my money back – but if course UAE law does not favour us).

“They provided me with a letter and constant assurances that they could facilitate a 70% mortgage. Of course when I mentioned this to them and sent in the proof – they ‘lost’ it. And my fault, I did not take a copy (was too stressed to think straight).

“Also the development was meant to be ready in Jan 2010, but the enabling work has only been finished now (though they told me it was complete in Jan 2009 (LIES!))

“Any advice, recommendations etc would be appreciated!”

This is certainly not good for the image of the country or its position as a preferred global investment destination.

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.

Steuersparmodelle

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.

CRACKS have emerged in the fraud prosecution of two Australian executives in Dubai, raising questions about the claims of their alleged victim, Sunland, the Gold Coast-based developer that alleges it was duped in a property deal.

BusinessDay believes a series of emails will be relied on by the defendants in Dubai and in a civil case in Australia in an attempt to contradict Sunland’s claims that it was kept in the dark and that Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee misled it when they were working for Dubai Waterfront, the world’s biggest waterfront development.

Joyce and Lee spent nine months behind bars in the emirate until they were bailed in October to fight the fraud case, in which Sunland is the key witness for the prosecution. Its claims of being cheated are also central to the civil case it has launched against Joyce and other parties in the Federal Court, where it is trying to recoup millions lost on the venture.

In the Dubai and Federal Court proceedings, Sunland alleges it was misled in two critical ways when it bought Plot D17 in 2007 from the Dubai government-owned master developer Nakheel, parent company of Dubai Waterfront.

First, it says its chief operating officer in Dubai, David Brown, was duped into believing that another Australian company, Prudentia, had rights to buy the plot, so Sunland paid Prudentia a $14 million ”consulting fee” to release the land.

Second, Sunland claims Joyce, as managing director of Dubai Waterfront, failed to disclose a long-term friendship with Prudentia’s director, Angus Reed, with whom he attended Geelong Grammar.

But Brown sent an email to Joyce on August 19, 2007, which is expected to be relied on in Joyce’s defence in the Federal Court. Evidence for the plaintiff and the defence is yet to be heard in the proceedings, where the emails are expected to be presented in their full context.

On its face, Brown appears to acknowledge in the email the status of Plot D17, and that Sunland’s founder and executive director, Soheil Abedian, was informed. At this point, Sunland and Prudentia were negotiating a joint venture on the development plot.

”Thanks Matt,” Brown wrote, ”I got your message and yes Soheil is aware that Prudentia are still in negotiations with Nakheel and have not purchased the site. Jeff [Austin, Nakheel’s director of planning and development] and Anthony [Brearley, a Nakheel lawyer] have also made this clear. The fact they have not purchased D17 yet is better because [it will] allow us and Prudentia to agree to JV terms before we proceed to buy the site.”

In that email, Brown also told Joyce: ”I have informed Soheil of your prior relationship with Prudentia and your desire not to get involved.”

While it did not mention the old-school connection, this email may suggest that Joyce wanted to remain at arm’s length from the deal. Brown wrote that Sunland would instead continue to deal ”with Anthony, Marcus [Lee] and Jeff”.

But 10 days later, on August 29, in a 5.56am email to Joyce, Brown was ”extremely” disappointed to hear that Nakheel was negotiating to sell the plot to a Russian group, ”considering the time and effort that we and our JV partner has put into the purchase of this plot”. Again, this calls into question Sunland’s claim that it did not know Prudentia had secured no rights over the plot.

In Sunland’s statement of claim in the Federal Court, Brown alleges that Joyce told him by phone on the same day as this email that other potential buyers, including Russians, might offer a much bigger price for the plot.

Sunland alleges this was to pressure it to proceed with the purchase.

The time of this alleged call is unclear but in Joyce’s reply email to Brown, at 6.58am, he wrote that he doubted ”our guys would negotiate with another party without at least informing you” – unless it was the work of Nakheel Sales without Dubai Waterfront’s knowledge.

Prudentia and Angus Reed, in their defences lodged in the Federal Court, say they never suggested they owned Plot D17 or had sealed an option to buy it.

And they insist Sunland was fully aware of this.

Rather, they argue, Nakheel had merely regarded Prudentia as a ”preferred negotiator”. On August 10, 2007, Nakheel’s Jeff Austin had confirmed in a letter to Reed that it would be happy ”to grant you preliminary development and planning approval”.

”We also confirm that we would be happy to entertain discussions with your joint venture partner provided [they] are a proven developer like Prudentia,” Austin wrote.

Joyce’s defence in the Federal Court says a draft sale agreement had been sent to Prudentia on August 15 and Dubai Waterfront did not want to appear to be involved in ”gazumping” by dealing directly with the ”secondary developer”, Sunland.

In any event, the joint-venture negotiations collapsed and Sunland decided to buy Plot D17 alone.

A document tendered in court in Dubai, dated September 18, 2007, shows its board agreed on the purchase and to enter a memorandum of understanding with Prudentia.

The next day, David Brown and Angus Reed signed the deal, which included a strict confidentiality clause between the two parties. Sunland agreed to pay the consulting fee.

In return, Prudentia handed over its ”right to negotiate” with the master developer.

It has also been alleged that Marcus Lee, who was Dubai Waterfront’s head of commercial operations, had intervened to lower the price of Plot D17 to push the purchase along. Under this deal, it is alleged, Prudentia would take a ”land uplift” fee – the difference between the lower price and the market price.

But an internal Nakheel email on August 27, 2007, appears to clear Lee on this count. Nakheel’s then director of sales and marketing, Manal Shaheen, sent the email to her CEO, and to Joyce and Lee. Shaheen told them that her team had found the price of 125 UAE dirhams ($A37) a square foot was too high. She wrote that Lee’s ”business report should say market price which is 110 and then give me to sign”.

Lee is expected to rely on this exchange to support his consistent position: that he merely did his job according to instructions of his superiors at Nakheel. When he later recommended a price of 120 UAE dirhams a square foot, he will argue that it was approved by his superiors.

Shaheen’s email suggests that Nakheel was informed. Nakheel has not come to the defence of Lee, who says he never gained nor stood to gain from the land sale.

Nor has Nakheel defended Joyce, who says he was paid nothing in connection with the Sunland deal.

Sunland is yet to develop Plot D17. Prudentia and Reed, in their defence in Australia, claim this means it has lost the opportunity to reduce its alleged loss by about 24 million dirhams ($A7.16 million).

Hundreds of property buyers in the long-delayed Ivory Tower project in Dubai fear they will lose their cash after work on the development stopped and consultants were called in to staff its Deira offices.

Ivory Tower, planned in the International Media Production Zone (IMPZ), was fully sold off-plan in 2006 and is now almost two years late.

Mohammed Binghalib, the former director of the developer Sokook Investment Group, said he was “not with the company any more”. The company’s website has also been closed and is to be updated, says a message on the site. Sokook’s office in Deira was manned by a consultant from Homes Real Estate yesterday.

The consultant said the developer had hired his company, based in Dubai, to compile a “feasibility report” on the 700 customers who bought units in the sprawling 20-storey Ivory Tower.

Foundation work began at the site last summer but was stalled recently because most investors had stopped paying, said Khaled Mahmood, the consultant from Homes Real Estate.

“I have to make a report to Sokook to see who is paying them and who isn’t,” he said.

“For people who have paid more than 30 per cent, their money is in safe hands because they won’t pay any more until we start construction again; for those who have paid less but don’t want to pay any more, we will forfeit them. Our construction is on hold because of the people who only paid 10 or 15 per cent.”

Mr Mahmood said the aim of the feasibility report was to find out how many investors were willing to continue with the project. If the development went ahead with, say, half the number of investors, the project would be scaled back by half, he said.

Mr Mahmood added that an option for buyers would be to transfer their investments to other projects in Dubai that were either completed or nearing completion.

This would have to be done through agreements with other developers, he said, as Sokook’s only project in Dubai was the Ivory Tower.

“If there is no trust left in the project, then we can talk with the customer and swap their investment to a developer who is more advanced.” He declined to name any developers with which Sokook had been in talks.

Mr Mahmood’s comments have done little to appease those who have waited almost four years for their homes to be built.

Investors formed an action group in 2008 when it became clear that the building would not be ready by the deadline, the middle of that year.

The original delay was caused by a dispute over the land with TECOM Investments, the master developer of IMPZ. The row was resolved only with the help of the Dubai Land Department in the summer of 2008.

Nigel Collins, an investor from the UK who bought four apartments in Ivory Tower in 2006, said many of the investors had given up the fight.

“It’s a catch-22 situation. I would be open to transferring my investment somewhere else if it means I can rent or sell that property.”

Source: The National

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