Sunland says it has no case against Dubai exec

Developer argues that it 'did not have any claim' against Marcus Lee

NEWS, Business

An Australian property developer has stepped back from earlier allegations that have seen a Dubai-based businessman under house arrest for more than four years.

Gold Coast-based Sunland Group told ABC News that Marcus Lee, who was arrested in Dubai on bribery charges in January 2009, has done nothing wrong.

“From Sunland’s side we did not have any claim against Mr Marcus Lee. Mr Marcus Lee has nothing to do with that case as long as we know,” managing director Soheil Abedian said.

Marcus Lee is one of two businessmen facing bribery charges in relation to a property deal on Dubai Waterfront, being developed by Nakheel. Lee, together with Matt Joyce, spent six months in jail before being charged in July 2009 and released under house arrest.

Earlier in the month, Joyce’s wife Angela Higgins had her passport returned.

Joyce and Lee have already won a court case in Australia brought by Gold Coast-based developer Sunland but the pair still face a lengthy prison term if a Dubai court finds them guilty.

In July last year, Victorian Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft threw out the case, denouncing Sunland’s “fabrication” and “ulterior motive” in what has become a highly publicised judgment.

The men had worked together on Dubai Waterfront, which was the world’s largest property development at the time.

Sunland alleged it was duped into paying about US$14m to another Australian company, Prudentia, to secure a development plot known as D17. It accused Joyce, as Dubai Waterfront’s general manager, and Prudentia’s Angus Reed, of falsely claiming that Prudentia had rights over D17.

But Victorian Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft found they made no such claim. He said Sunland had been “desperate” to secure the land amid Dubai’s property boom.

The Dubai case is being reviewed in light of the Australian judgment and a personal plea from Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The case against Lee, who is not being accused by Sunland, is unclear. John Sneddon, Lee’s lawyer, said despite Sunland’s admission, it is not what the firm told authorities in Dubai.

“It's all well and good for them to say now they think he’s innocent but that's not what they said to authorities in Dubai,” he told NineMSN.


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