Egypt lawyer seeks to annul more land deals
Cairo, October 1, 2010
An Egyptian lawyer said he had filed a lawsuit demanding the government cancel the sales since 1998 of all state land not sold by auction.
It is the latest challenge to state land sales since a court in June annulled the purchase by Egypt's biggest listed developer, Talaat Moustafa (TMG), of land for its flagship Madinaty real estate project.
The government resolved the problem by annulling the TMG contract and reselling the land back to the company, but analysts say this solution, while quelling some investor concerns, has not stopped new claims from being lodged.
"I have filed a suit to call for the cancellation of all contracts that were awarded to investors without being put up for auction," Essam Ali Abdel Halim, an independent lawyer, said by telephone. "We want the law to be implemented."
Abdel Halim's document had a court reference number, indicating that the court will consider the merits of the case.
The court had ruled that the state New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) sold the land to TMG illegally because it did not put it up for public auction as required by a 1998 law.
The government this month said it would reaward the same land to TMG under rules allowing it to do so when it was in the public interest.
Although the 1998 law stipulates that state land can only be sold through a process of competitive bidding, NUCA sold tracts of land directly to single developers until as late as 2006, basing its sales on legislation that preceded the 1998 law.
Abdel Halim said his lawsuit includes land sold directly by NUCA to universities and foreign schools in new suburbs on the outskirts of Cairo, among them the American University in Cairo, which has built a new campus east of the city.
"This is the real problem," TMG's legal adviser Shawky el-Sayed said on Thursday. "TMG's problem might have been resolved, but the court has opened the gates of hell on all contracts drafted since 1998 with all projects, agencies and sectors."
No court date has yet been announced to hear Abdel Halim's lawsuit. "The window for such suits will remain open until a solution is found to put people at ease," Sayed said. - Reuters