Dubai ‘most treacherous place on earth to do business’ warns Stirling
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Priyesh Patel built his real estate company, Aston Pearl, from nothing in the highly volatile Dubai property market. Over the course of 12 years, the British national developed a stellar reputation and handled some of the richest clients in the UAE.
Through his dependable management of client accounts and deep knowledge of the real estate sector in Dubai, Priyesh navigated Aston Pearl through the Global Financial Crisis of 2009 and its aftermath, emerging unscathed, when other firms fell by the wayside.
Priyesh built a business he could be proud of, and a reputation for trustworthiness that he cherished. Over the past few years, however, he has seen his good name sullied and his business stolen, with a former partner now actually claiming to be the founder of Aston Pearl.
“This case illustrates just how treacherous it can be to do business in Dubai,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who represents Priyesh. “A long-time client of Aston Pearl came to Priyesh in a panic over some legal troubles. Priyesh recommended an attorney for him whose services he had previously used himself; Isa bin Haider. Haider’s legal fees were so high that the client, Moemen Hanafy, asked Priyesh to urgently sell 10 properties he owned in order to come up with the money.” Selling on short notice was not an easy task, and Priyesh mobilised his staff to prioritise the sales, agreeing with Moemen to a slightly higher commission than usual, Priyesh succeeded in securing a single buyer for all the properties.
The sales were completed, and Moemen signed off on the documentation at the Dubai Land Department, received his money, paid Haider, and deposited the remainder back with Aston Pearl for future purchases. Priyesh deducted the agreed upon commission and distributed it among the staff who facilitated the sales. Everything proceeded as agreed, and Priyesh was gratified to have been able to assist one of his long-standing clients.
Stirling explains what happened next, “Apparently, Moemen let slip in conversation with bin Haider the total amount of money he had earned from the sales, as well as the amount he had allotted for Priyesh and company. Upon learning this information, it seems, bin Haider immediately raised his legal fees, and proposed Moemen should file a complaint against Priyesh in order to get the money back.”
Priyesh’s business partner, Safura Abasniya, who had a previous relationship with bin Haider, cooperated in this complaint, seizing upon it as an opportunity to take control of Aston Pearl. She urged Priyesh to leave the country, assuring him that she would help resolve the dispute. Instead, she collaborated with Moemen and bin Haider, allegedly falsifying company records, and testifying against Priyesh while he was overseas, accusing him of misappropriating the money from the sales of Moemen’s properties. Prieysh was tried and convicted in absentia, with no opportunity to defend himself in court.
He has been forced to start his life all over again abroad, while Safura assumed control of Aston Pearl and claims to be both founder and CEO of the company.
“It is truly shocking how common this sort of intrigue takes place in the Dubai business community,”Stirling cautions, “We have seen clients betrayed by business partners and clients so frequently that it is astonishing anyone continues to invest in the UAE, quite frankly. Using a combination of local influencers, a substandard legal system, and sheer ruthlessness, unscrupulous and ambitious businesspeople prey on the very trust and dependability entrepreneurs work so hard to establish. Priyesh’s case is emblematic; success in Dubai is no protection against this sort of intrigue, indeed, the more successful someone is, the more vulnerable they become. The culture, the legal system, and the investing environment make Dubai one of the most treacherous places to do business on earth.”