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Archive for January 14th, 2009

Bouncing towards a jails boom in Dubai

Posted by 7starsdubai on January 14, 2009


original published: Evening Standard UK 14-01-2009

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23618915-details/Bouncing+towards+a+jails+boom/article.do

Even when the real estate bubble was inflating, Dubai police were arresting people over property fraud. Now the bubble has burst, the numbers could well rise.

The latest case surrounds Dynasty Zarooni, which investors claim defrauded them of more than $100 million. They say promised returns from tower blocks in Dubai and its satellite towns never materialised. Hilal Al Zarooni, one of the company founders, denies any wrongdoing. Police say they’ve arrested company chairman Kabir Mulchandani, but no formal charges have been made.

It’s part of a wider campaign against rogue property deals that began last March with the arrest of Zack Shahin, chief executive of developer Deyaar. Since then, senior executives from a string of companies have joined him in the cells, including Tamweel, Sama Dubai and Nakheel.

The Dubai government owns significant stakes in each of them. Indeed, the probe has stretched as far as JPMorgan. A senior banker was held as part of the probe in summer 2008, although the investigation relates to his previous job with a subsidiary of Dubai Islamic Bank — also backed by the Dubai government.

No one has yet stood trial, so the details remain sketchy. And while court cases may well reveal some wanton criminal scams, others may be guilty of nothing more than business failure. That’s because the UAE’s bankruptcy law is crude at best. Failing to pay debts is a criminal offence, with no provision for personal bankruptcy.

Businessmen and women who bounce cheques can and do end up in prison.

This hasn’t been a major problem in Dubai, as most individuals and companies have done well, certainly over the past decade or so. Now it is, as the economy slows, companies go bust and thousands of people lose their jobs. If the UAE doesn’t bring bankruptcy rules up to speed, one area of property development is sure to boom: construction of debtors’ jails.

* As recessions go, it’s as shallow as they come. Investment bank EFG-Hermes says the UAE economy will shrink by 0.04% this year. Still, after years of double-digit growth, it’s sobering. EFG economist Monica Malik says Opec quotas will curb oil production, and real estate and tourism will slow down. One crumb of comfort: she says growth will return next year, at about 4%.

* Not all foreign investors have deserted Dubai. Reports suggest that, wait for it, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell may be opening a nightclub in the city with new boyfriend Nick House, a founder of London’s Mahiki.

Posted in Dubai, Kabir Mulchandani | Comments Off on Bouncing towards a jails boom in Dubai

 
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