x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ajman developer flees Dh8m debt

Writing a bounced cheque is a criminal offence under UAE law, which has led to property developers who are unable to pay their debts leaving the country rather than risk jail.

Sam Rasool, the chief executive of Project Integrated Realty Developers, is in Pakistan where he has citizenship, after being unable to build the five towers in Park View, one of 15 major developments originally planned along Emirates Road in Ajman. The project was launched in June last year. Mr Rasool said he stayed in Pakistan in April instead of returning to the UAE because he was unable to repay his business partner, to whom he had given a guarantee cheque. "I still have property plots that used to be worth about Dh75m in Ajman, but I am defaulted by about Dh8m because people are not paying," Mr Rasool said by telephone from Islamabad. "It is a general crash in the market and you have to go to jail for that? So I packed up and I left." Yafea al Faraj, the chief executive of ABH, Park View's master developer, said his company also received cheques from Mr Rasool that bounced. Writing a bad cheque is a criminal offence under UAE law, which has led to property developers who are unable to pay their debts leaving the country. "The company and the person who wrote a cheque that bounces is criminally liable," said David Nunn, a partner of the law firm Simmons and Simmons. "But you have to be here in order to be liable effectively." Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree last month to form a special committee that will exclusively examine the issue of bounced cheques relating to property issues. Mr Rasool claimed to have been one of the most prolific sellers of property in the emirate, where scores of planned towers have been either delayed or cancelled during the past year. "I was the top salesman in Ajman high-rise construction, he said. "I was selling only bulk: 30 floors, 50 floors. My record in Ajman was 1,745 flats in only one day - four towers - which I sold in my office between 9am to 11pm." Ajman started to develop large-scale freehold property developments relatively late and as a result was hard hit by the slowdown. More than 900 towers were launched in the past two years, but the emirate's property regulator has so far registered only 140 of them. The Park View development was originally designed to comprise 44 high-rise plots with the potential to add a further 66 towers on the site. "Before I came, they had sold 18 towers in five months. I sold the rest, 26 towers, in about 17 days," said Mr Rasool. Mr Rasool is now selling franchises for a chain of gyms.