x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Damac Properties chairman seeks to overthrow conviction in Egypt

Hussain Sajwani says Egypt is pursuing political vendettas as the Damac chief seeks to overthrow his conviction.

Hussain Sajwani, the chairman of Damac Properties who was sentenced in absentia to five years' imprisonment and fined US$40.5 million (Dh148.7m) after being convicted by an Egyptian court of corruption last week, has filed an arbitration case against Egypt to overturn the judgment.

Mr Sajwani confirmed in a statement that a case had been lodged with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (Icsid) in Washington by his lawyers from King & Spalding.

The case is based on a bilateral investment treaty between Egypt and the UAE.

Mr Sajwani was convicted for his role in the purchase of lands in Gamsha Bay from the Egyptian government in a 2006 deal brokered by the former minister of tourism, Zuhair Garranah, who has also been found guilty on corruption charges. Mr Sajwani denies any wrongdoing and said he was implicated by association with a former member of the regime of Hosni Mubarak without any evidence of a crime on his part.

The conviction represented a "violation" of a treaty signed by the UAE and Egypt to protect Emirati investments in the country and had caused "significant damage to his investments in Egypt and the wider Gulf area". Mr Sajwani called it a "travesty of justice" that was "rushed through Egypt's judicial system at lightning speed".

"The criminal prosecution and conviction of Mr Sajwani were a classic case of guilt by association," said Ken Fleuriet, Mr Sajwani's lawyer from King & Spalding. "No crime was committed by simply conducting business with the former regime," he said.

"While the Egyptian court held that the price paid for the Gamsha Bay property was too low, the transaction was entirely proper, and Damac was entitled to rely upon the price charged by the government at the time. It was an arms' length transaction that was fully vetted by the appropriate Egyptian officials at the time of purchase," said Mr Fleuriet.

Mr Sajwani said yesterday the case raised questions "about the rule of law in Egypt in the wake of Egypt's January 2011 revolution".

There were "political vendettas" being pursued by Egypt's new regime at "the behest of the public", he said.

bhope@thenational.ae