Police and investors are trying to track down the chief executive of Al Barakah, a property developer, in connection with Dh14 million (US$3.8m) worth of bounced cheques. Al Barakah, the group behind the development of the "tallest tower in Ajman", as well as several projects in Dubai, enticed homebuyers with a guarantee of a 50 per cent profit in six months. To convince them, the company issued post-dated cheques for that time period.
Police say at least Dh14m worth of those cheques have bounced and the company's chief executive, Imran Khan, has so far eluded investors and law enforcement officials looking for him. The status of the company's developments, which number more than a dozen in Ajman and Dubai, remains unclear. With many of these guarantees now reaching maturity and property prices falling, investors in Al Barakah have been flocking to its Dubai-based brokerage agency in the hope of cashing in on their memorandums of understanding (MOUs).
"My MOU matured exactly a month back. I have been going there many times. Every time you ask for the CEO, they say he is not there," said an investor who bought units worth Dh2.5m in Ajman. "I gave them a 20 per cent downpayment in cash and they said it would be refinanced in six months, with 50 per cent returns." Al Barakah has launched 15 projects in Dubai and Ajman since it began operating last year. The company has sold about 50 per cent of the units in those projects, according to a sales agent of the company.
The National has obtained a copy of one of the MOUs signed by Al Barakah's Mr Khan, for a unit in the Burj Regent in Ajman. In the document, Mr Khan promises to resell the property within five months at a minimum of 50 per cent profit. The MOU says the details should be kept confidential. Promising 50 per cent returns in six months is not illegal, but David Nunn, a lawyer with Simmons and Simmons, said failing to honour a cheque was a criminal offence.
The National attempted to contact Mr Khan on several occasions in the past two weeks, but he was not available for comment. According to the cheques department of the Rashidia Police Station in Dubai, four cases have been filed against Mr Khan by investors involving bounced cheques totalling Dh14m. "A fifth case is coming up with cheques amounting to another Dh9m," an officer at the department said. "Many more people are coming to file new cases."
The officer said police had visited Mr Khan's house and found it closed and empty. He said police believed Mr Khan was in Dubai, but they had been unable to locate him. Al Barakah's website describes the company as a Shariah-compliant real estate investment and development group. "For us, business is all about 'trust and transparency' and these core principles represent the cornerstone of our business model," the website says. The company is not registered in Dubai or Ajman, the two emirates in which it has projects. According to the Ajman Land Department, no Al Barakah projects are registered, not even Burj Manara Ajman in Marmooka City, a building that is earmarked to become the tallest tower in the emirate, reaching 90 storeys. No work has started as yet on the Burj Manara Ajman site.
Al Barakah Investments is registered in Ras al Khaimah (RAK) Free Trade Zone as an offshore company, an official at the zone said. Haidar Ali, a sales agent at Al Barakah's Dubai-based agency, Inside Track, said staff had received death threats from disgruntled buyers. He said he had not been paid for two months. "People are coming and threatening us. This is why the office is empty," he said. "We are not the ones who took the money. Our chief executive, Imran Khan, did," he alleged. "He gave the signature on the MOU with the copy of his passport."
Mr Khan's personal assistant, Abdul Qadeer, said Mr Khan was ill. "Imran Khan is not picking up the phone," Mr Qadeer said. "He is not feeling well, but he is in Dubai." The National located Mr Khan's wife at a Dubai hotel, but she said he was not available for comment. Another investor, Maha Abdulwahab, based in Bahrain, purchased an entire floor in Burj Regent, one of Al Barakah's Ajman developments.
"I paid 10 per cent of the value in a one-time payment and with no escrow account," she said. "And I am supposed to get my money plus 50 per cent profit in March. I can't get in touch with the CEO." Mrs Abdulwahab said she would file a case in Bahrain and get Interpol involved. Mr Ali, the sales agent, said that unfavourable market conditions had impacted Al Barakah. "The market is not good so we didn't honour our promises," he said.
Earlier this year, the company announced it planned to develop projects worth more than Dh3 billion in three years. Its projects to date include Sanali Towersin Downtown Dubailand, the residential development Le Stelle in Dubailand, and the residential and commercial development Al Tafany, in the City of Arabia. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org