UAE president built 'secret $7 billion London property empire'

UAE president built 'secret $7 billion London property empire', report reveals
2 min read
19 October, 2020
Leaked documents obtained by the Guardian showed that Sheikh Khalifa al Nahyan owns 170 properties with a total value of an estimated £5.5 billion or $7.16 billion.
The Abu Dhabi ruler owns some of the UK capital's most prestigious addresses. [Getty]
UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has built a 'real estate empire' acquired through the use of a secretive network of shell companies and off-shore accounts, a Guardian report said on Sunday.

Leaked documents obtained by the Guardian showed that Sheikh Khalifa al Nahyan owns 170 properties with a total value of an estimated £5.5 billion or $7.16 billion.

Referred to by his lawyers as 'The Client' to preserve his anonymity, the Abu Dhabi ruler owns some of the UK capital's most prestigious addresses, according to the leaked documents obtained by the Guardian.

According to the report, his London acquisitions included a property in Berkeley Square in Mayfair, and the freehold of 95 buildings surrounding it.

Added to his portfolio is also One Kensington Gardens, where apartments are currently on the market for between £18m and £26m, and a residential block in Knightsbridge housing the Ecuador embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent seven years in hiding.

Among the lavish list was world's oldest Bentley car dealership, the famous Annabel’s nightclub and the Time Life building on New Bond Street, which is now home to the Hermes luxury goods store, according to the Guardian.

Despite the size of Khalifa's property portfolio, for many years his identity as the buyer was kept secret. Transactions were carried out through a group of companies based in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands and handled by elite London law firms.

"[The property portfolio] was created in a subterranean way through stealth-like deals, quietly put together over many years," a source familiar with Khalifa’s business dealings told the Guardian.

"The documents highlight how it is possible in the UK for a deep-pocketed investor such as Khalifa to build up, largely undetected, a sprawling property portfolio with about 1,000 tenants – thanks to a complex structure of shell companies in offshore havens administered by some of London’s top law firms," the report said.

A spokesman for Lancer, Khalifa’s property management firm, told the Guardian that all of the properties had been "legitimately purchased".

Eversheds, one of the law firms involved, said it had acted "strictly in accordance" with its legal and regulatory obligations at all times.

The Abu Dhabi ruler was appointed as the first president of the UAE after the death of the founder, Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan in 2004, and has served in the role since.

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