Dubai free zone shuts top US firm


Capital Partners is currently in arbitration with Dubai’s Tecom free zone, which is owned by the ruler of Dubai, over a dispute about the ownership of a 38-acre plot of land where the firm had agreed to build a $ 1.3bn development.

Tecom, which has developed media and internet business parks, is home to hundreds of multinationals including the world’s biggest software maker, Microsoft Corp.

Dubai, one of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates, has long sought to position itself as an international commercial, tourism and financialac centre, luring businesses to its free zones with promises of tax-free earnings.

The global financial crisis has put the brakes on an economic boom in the Gulf Arab region, especially in Dubai, where a building boom is unravelling, property firms are laying off staff and banks are facing tight liquidity conditions.

Capital Partners Managing Director Jonathan Wride said he had not been warned of the decision, nor allowed to object or even sell off company assets once his firm was deregistered.

“Tecom stated that we no longer exist and thus are not entitled to wind up or liquidate, which is in direct conflict with Tecom’s own regulations and UAE law,” said Wride. “It is of critical … importance that international companies can continue to operate in Dubai, safe in the knowledge that the UAE law will be upheld,” he said in an interview.

Dubai Holding, Tecom and sister public relations firm Jiwin did not respond to Reuters questions about the case, the deregistration process and the possible implications for Capital Partners or other multinational companies.

In August 2007, the firm filed a claim against Tecom for misrepresentation and breach of contract. Both parties confirmed to Reuters in mid-April, before Capital Partners was deregistered, that the case was under arbitration.

The case was mentioned in a letter from the US House of Representatives to President George W Bush on March 28, 2008. The letter urged the US trade representative to press for a resolution through negotiations with the UAE.

The delicensing decision was published in a local Arabic newspaper in October.



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