A row over land sold to Dubai developer Damac was resolved two days ago, says investment minister
Egypt has settled a row with a Dubai-based developer over a land contract reached when Hosni Mubarak was in power, a minister said on Tuesday, a deal that could help remove uncertainties that have depressed interest in the once-booming property market.
The Egyptian government said last year it was seeking to settle disputes over the price of land and other issues with about 20 foreign and local investors, in a bid to avoid costly arbitration and rebuild confidence in Egypt.
"We have at last reached an agreement with (Dubai-based) DAMAC, a final settlement (was) approved by the board of the new urban communities authority ... two days ago," said Investment Minister Osama Saleh, speaking at a conference in Cairo.
DAMAC had said last year it had filed an international arbitration case against Egypt over a land row and the conviction of its chairman and owner, Hussain Sajwani.
Sanjawy was convicted along with former Egyptian tourism minister Zuhair Garanah in May 2011. The court concluded that Garanah assisted Sanjawy in earning $41 million in illegal profits, causing damage to public welfare.
Sajwani was convicted in absentia, handed a five-year prison term and ordered to return land to the Egyptian government. He was also fined LE242 million ($40.3m).
At the time, Damac dismissed the charges as "spurious" and filed a case with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a World Bank entity.
The Dubai group said it had no statement to make after the minister's remarks. "Whilst the international arbitration case is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment," said Niall McLoughlin, the company's senior vice president.
The minister described the case as one of the most complicated problems in terms of investment deals for Egypt.
Several cases claiming land was sold to too cheaply by Mubarak's government were raised in the courts before the former president was ousted in an uprising last year. Since his overthrow in February 2011, the rows have gathered momentum.
The land disputes further damaged investor confidence, which was already badly hit by the political turmoil.
Real estate investment had been a major driver of the economy in the years before Mubarak's overthrow, contributing to growth rates that hit 7 percent a year. Growth since the uprising has tumbled as investment in this and other sectors has dried up.