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Dubai ruling family members face $1.9bn suit

Dubai, March 13, 2009

A Dubai court began a hearing against three members of the emirate's ruling family after businessman sought $1.9 billion in compensation for the alleged seizure of his firm.

The claimant, Shahram Abdullah Zadeh, a Dubai-based Iranian businessman and property owner, filed the civil suit, alleging that his business had been taken over by Sheikh Hasher Maktoum Al-Maktoum, according to case documents obtained by Reuters.

The court handling the case against Al Fajer Real Estate and members of the Dubai ruling family began the trial but adjourned to April 8 after defendants did not attend.

'We attended the session but the defendant did not attend and the session was adjourned to April 8,' Salem Al Shaali, Zadeh's lawyer from Al Shaali & Co, told Reuters by telephone.

Sheikh Hasher had sponsored Zadeh in line with the United Arab Emirates law which requires foreigners to have a UAE national as a partner or sponsor to carry out business activities, the documents showed.

Sheikh Hasher declined to comment by telephone or respond through email. His son and daughter could not be reached by telephone.

The suit is likely to draw wide attention as a test case for Dubai, home to many Western banks and a regional business hub.

Dubai has fashioned itself as a tourist destination and business-friendly centre for many international firms, and captured global attention by building palm-shaped islands in the sea and the world's tallest building.

Last year, as Dubai's booming real estate market reached dizzying heights, the emirate launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign that saw the arrest of several well-known business figures.

But the prolonged detention of several Dubai property executives as part of the probe has been criticised by groups such as Amnesty International.

Zadeh accuses Al Fajer company, Sheikh Hasher, his son and his daughter, of involvement in the case, according to case documents. The case names the daughter, Sheikha Meryam, as a partner of the firm, and the son, Sheikh Maktoum, as a manager.

Zadeh alleged that Sheikh Hasher and Sheikha Meryam have 'seized all the company has from cash monies, movables, properties, and others' in March last year, according to case documentation.

The seizure of the company occurred while Zadeh was held in custody of Dubai police, according to Zadeh.

'I was arrested for 60 days on February 21, 2008 and until this day I don't know what law I have broken, and I have not been charged with anything. I still don't know why they have kept my passport for over one year,' Zadeh told Reuters.

The chief of Dubai police, major general Dahi Khalfan Tamim, confirmed the arrest to Reuters by telephone and said that Zadeh was held on charges of bribery on order of the public prosecutor, charges that Zadeh denies. The public prosecutor could not be reached for comment.

Abdullah Zadeh's lawyer, Salem Al Shaali, said he expected the case to be decided on its merits.

'We haven't yet seen anyone, whether from the ruling family or other, escaping the rule of law,' he told Reuters.

Essam Al Tamimi, lawyer at Al Tamimi & Co. told Reuters by telephone that the judicial system in the UAE 'is very independent from the government and the ruling family'.

'Anyone can sue anyone, whether they are from the ruling family or not,' Tamimi said.-Reuters




Tags: property | Iranian | case | Al Fajer | Dubai ruling family | Suit |

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