A British developer released from jail in Dubai last month after going on hunger strike made a surprise court appearance in the emirate yesterday in a bid to freeze a Dh57 million (US$15.5m) payout from Nakheel to another investor.
Safi Qurashi, 43, spent 30 months in prison after being found guilty of bouncing cheques. He was at the Dubai World Tribunal yesterday as the investor, Shokat Mohammed Dalal, won his case against Nakheel over a disputed deposit paid for three islands on The World, a Dubai World project developed by Nakheel.
In a highly unusual move, Afridi & Angell, acting for Mr Qurashi, requested the Tribunal freeze the money awarded to Mr Dalal because he and Mr Qurashi were involved in a separate civil dispute in the Dubai Courts.
The request for the money awarded to Mr Dalal to be paid into a separate registry pending the results of a case in the Dubai Courts came after he had been awarded the Dh57m.
“There’s no precedent of this application, there’s been no order of this sort at the Tribunal before now,” Sir John Chadwick, the Tribunal judge, said in response. “We dismiss the application because we have no grounds to hear it.”
Dubai World Tribunal was set up in November 2009 to oversee the restructuring of Dubai World and some of its units.
The dispute between Mr Dalal and Nakheel made headlines this year when Nakheel lawyers accused another Tribunal judge, Michael Hwang, of falling asleep during proceedings.
Mr Dalal and Mr Qurashi are involved in the civil case in the Dubai Courts over two islands on the World.
In 2008, Mr Dalal, represented in court by Davidson & Co, paid Dh57m to reserve three islands on The World project, so Nakheel would not offer them to any other investors. Nakheel claimed the Dh57m was a deposit for the three islands and was non-refundable.
“There is no basis for a finding of fact that Mr Dalal was told by [Nakheel], at or about the time that the payments were made in May/June 2008, that they would be non-refundable if the purchases did not proceed,” the judgement on the case ruled.
“In the Tribunal’s view, on a true analysis of the facts, Mr Dalal paid [Dh57m] to The World in May/June 2008 on the understanding that for so long as The World retained those monies, it would not offer the three island plots to another purchaser without first giving him the opportunity to enter into reservation contracts.”
The Tribunal ruled Nakheel should return the funds and it invited the developer and Mr Dalal to discuss together whether that should include interest. The two parties were given 21 days to submit applications regarding interest.
In 2009 Mr Qurashi, from south London, was arrested and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison when three cheques, worth a total of Dh189m, bounced. The decision was subsequently reaffirmed by the Dubai Court of Cassation.
Last month, Dubai’s Supreme Court returned a verdict of not guilty concerning two of the three cheques and freed Mr Qurashi on bail. He had served 30 months in Dubai’s Central Prison and had gone on a hunger strike to protest at his imprisonment.
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