Damac to fight Cairo conviction

Damac Properties said it would fight a conviction of its chairman in Egypt on charges of corruption by filing an arbitration claim against Egypt in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Damac Properties, one of Dubai's largest developers, said it would fight the conviction of its chairman on corruption charges by filing a case with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (Icsid).

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The company said Egypt's public prosecutor had filed "spurious charges" against Hussain Sajwani on the basis of a 2006 deal to buy 3,000 hectares of land in Gamsha Bay near the Red Sea with the former tourism minister Zuhair Garranah.

Mr Garranah, Mr Sajwani and another businessman, Hisham al Hazeq, were sentenced by an Egyptian court on Monday. Mr Sajwani was sentenced to five years' jail, fined 242 million Egyptian pounds (Dh149.5m) and ordered to return land to the Egyptian government.

Mr Sajwani was convicted "in absentia" because he was not present for the trial in Egypt.

"As the prosecution and conviction of Mr Sajwani were totally improper, the sentence, fine, order to return the Gamsha Bay land to the state and Interpol arrest request constitute a breach of the bilateral investment treaty between Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, whose purpose is to protect investments of UAE investors in Egypt," Damac said in a statement yesterday.

The trial was the latest in a string of corruption cases in Egypt that came after the popular protests that began on January 25 and led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president in February. Hundreds of charges have been filed against politicians and businessmen.

Mr Mubarak is facing corruption charges, which he has denied. Other prominent businessmen, including the steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, have been arrested and are awaiting trial.

Icsid, where Damac says it will file an arbitration claim, is affiliated with the World Bank and is based in Washington DC. It is an autonomous body set up to solve investment disputes across borders.

Damac alleged yesterday "the Arab Republic of Egypt is responsible for a series of blatant violations of the 1997 bilateral investment treaty between the UAE and Egypt".

Mr Sajwani and Damac were "implicated by association in Egypt's ongoing efforts to criminally prosecute and convict former members of Mubarak's government", Damac said.

The company said there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Mr Sajwani and that the judgment was "politically motivated" as part of a "campaign of persecution" against businessmen who did deals with the former government.