x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Property chief looking at long jail term

A company owner and chief executive faces life in prison over a string of charges relating to fraud and bounced cheques.

DUBAI // A company owner and chief executive faces life in prison over a string of charges relating to fraud and bounced cheques. Peter Margetts, 46, from the UK, has already been sentenced to 20 years by the Dubai Courts and could face a further 118 years if found guilty on the remainder of the charges, all of which he denies. Mr Margetts, the chief executive of the developer Hampstead & Mayfair, was indicted on four counts of fraud and 42 of issuing cheques that bounced. He has been convicted and sentenced on 13 of the counts, with 33 still to be judged in continuing hearings.

The sole owner of Hampstead & Mayfair, Mr Margetts was arrested on January 26. The company is developing the Boutique Residence 1, 2 and 3 projects at Jumeirah Village on the outskirts of Dubai. The allegations are that last year he borrowed Dh21 million (US$5.7m) from 42 UAE-based pilots to finance a property development in Dubai, promising a 30 per cent return within six months. "We have paid sums which range between Dh250,000 and Dh2.5m," said Peter Krygger, one of the investors, who added: "We acquired some information that Margetts was not investing our monies as we agreed."

The initial investment had involved the Dubai Waterfront, he said, but the investors learnt that their money had gone into the Jumeirah Village developments. "Then prosecutors told us that the company did not have the proper licensing for such an investment as well as no escrow account for the project," said Capt Krygger. Mr Margetts said his company was fully registered and legal under UAE laws, but that he himself had been defrauded in the purchase of the Waterfront plot. "After making the payments of Dh17m to the CEO of Nagar Real Estate, Hassan Sadri, he ran off with our money and we ended up not even partially owning the land," he said.

Sadri, a fugitive, has already been convicted in absentia of fraud and sentenced to three years' prison. He is now being sued at the Dubai Civil Courts by Mr Margetts. Mr Margetts insisted that the project was still going ahead. "I have placed all the money I have into this project. Now I and my associates are merging all the projects into one and are just awaiting for approvals from Nakheel and the regulator to go ahead with the construction."

He added that he had written to all of the investors explaining the situation three months before the due date on the security cheques. "I offered them property instead of the fully owed amount." amustafa@thenational.ae