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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Re: The Untold Wealth of Ishaq Dar

 Truth and Facts in response to the Article titled: “The Untold Wealth of Ishaq Dar”

By: Ali Dar – CEO HDS Group

On 20th September, 2014, an Article was published in an online News Website namely Al Rasub written by a Ms. Sabena Siddiqi. This Article is nothing but a cheap attempt to malign my father Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar, my brother Hasnain Dar and me and is replete with distortions and falsehood and is purposefully aimed at discrediting the Dar family. The Author has maliciously attempted to create doubts in the minds of the readers about our lawful business in UAE in which our father has no share or interest as he made us independent more than a decade ago when I completed my professional education in United Kingdom.

It is important to note that both Hasnain and I spent a considerable time of our lives abroad. After finishing our higher education, we got engaged in business activities in UAE and have never been involved in any business or professional activities in Pakistan, under direction of our father who wanted to ensure no conflict of interest in his official public positions and in order for us to avoid the common allegation against families of Politicians on account of having undue favors or business expansions due to their elders in Politics and/or holding Public Offices. When I moved to UAE in 2003 after completing my education, my father, Senator Dar was professionally engaged as Financial Advisor/President of a Fund/Company of Royal Family of UAE and retained this position from February 2002 to March 2008. Senator Dar, after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in England, has experience of working for more than 40 Years in profession, industry and public/private sectors in UK, North Africa, Middle East and Pakistan. Out of his declared lawful professional earnings, Senator Dar had gifted part of these to me and also gave some Qarz-e-Hasna (Interest-free Islamic Loan) for my business career. Importantly, my father has made full declaration of all these transactions in his annual Tax Returns as well as Election Commission Returns (as a Parliamentarian) that are gazetted in Pakistan. On taking oath as Federal Finance Minister in June 2013, he submitted his Statement of Assets, which again reflected the latest status of these transactions which are also correspondingly fully documented in Audited Books of our business in UAE. The Qarz-e-Hasna has since been fully repaid and remitted to him to Pakistan through the official banking channels out of which my father Senator Dar has been financing for last few years an orphanage in Lahore, Pakistan in which around 100 children aged 5-16 years reside and their boarding, lodging, health and education is being fully looked after. He also quietly runs another charitable institution, Hajveri Foundation, which helps the poor for medical, education, mass marriages and other needs of life. Besides, he has been a regular contributor towards other charities and social welfare programs. He topped the list of political donors at the time of the 2010 floods, made the largest individual donation for rehabilitation of the IDPs of Swat and Malakand Division and again gave a personal donation for recent floods; thereby taking total donated amount to Rs. 70 Million for the said three calamities.

My brother and I have been involved in business in UAE under the name of “HDS Group” in which there is no participation or involvement of anyone whosoever. Our business is subject to yearly independent audits as per International Auditing Standards and UAE Laws, Rules and Regulations. One of the World’s top-most Auditors (known as Big 4) happen to be HDS' auditors and, as part of their “Know-Your-Client” procedures and practices, they don’t even sign-up a client until and unless they are 100% satisfied about the source of funds and legitimacy of the business. UAE applies strict legal regime with respect to funding sources for businesses and HDS Group is in full compliance with the UAE laws and regulations and, in particular, abide by the laws pertaining to Government/Banking/Corporate Regulatory Authorities and Master Developers.

HDS Group has mainly been engaged in real estate development business in the UAE for over a decade. The contents of Ms. Siddiqi’s Article are part of a propaganda that is published from time to time to scandalize and defame the Dar family. The assertions in the said Article are untrue, misleading and contrary to the conduct of real estate business of UAE. It is a known fact worldwide that a builder/developer/co-developer is not the owner of a building. The developer only uses funds from its customers/booking-holders/buyers and, after the completion of project, the building stands transferred in the names of such customers/booking-holders/buyers. The strict application of the UAE real estate laws may be evident from the fact that the investors’/owners’ funds are deposited into escrow bank accounts and releases are made to the developers/contractors through regulated process monitored by the Authorities of the Government of UAE. Instructively, the Real Estate Development business is strictly regulated in the UAE by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (“RERA”) that has a complete diligence and oversight of all the Developers. All transactions are undertaken as per the law without any race, cast or creed prejudices.

HDS Group has lawfully acted till date as Developers or Co-Developers in Joint Ventures with other partners in the UAE for development of the following towers mentioned in the Article: -

1. HDS Tower: The whole tower (G+39) was sold out (except for a few units that have been retained by HDS Group for office purpose). There are approximately 300 customers/buyers (which include individuals, corporations, companies and institutions etc) of HDS Tower who are the owners according to the strata laws of Dubai and whose particulars are available with the UAE Real Estate Authorities, Government of Dubai.Therefore, the allegation of the Tower being owned by HDS Group is concocted and a big lie.

2. HDS Business Centre: The whole tower (G+39) was again sold out (except for a few units that remain unsold due to the slow business environment in Dubai since the economic downturn of 2008). There are approximately 250 customers/buyers (which include individuals, corporations, companies and institutions etc) of HDS Business Centre who are the owners according to the strata laws of Dubai and whose particulars are available with the UAE Real Estate Authorities, Government of Dubai. Therefore, the allegation of the Tower being owned by HDS Group is concocted and a big lie.

3. HDS Sunstar 1 and 2: One of these two low rise buildings (G+10) is 100% sold out and the other has some unsold units due to economic downturn of 2008, which have been rented out. The two buildings jointly have 260 individual Unit Occupants, the details of whom are again available with the UAE Real Estate Authorities, Government of Dubai.Therefore, the allegation of the Towers being owned by HDS Group is concocted and a big lie.

4. Sobha Ivory 1 and 2: HDS Group has never had any involvement whatsoever in Sobha Ivory 2 Project. With regards to Sobha Ivory 1, HDS Group did co-develop this Project but all units have long been sold and there are approximately 110 customers/buyers (which include individuals, corporations, companies and institutions etc) of Soba Ivory 1 building who are the owners according to the strata laws of Dubai and whose particulars are available with the UAE Real Estate Authorities, Government of Dubai. Therefore, the allegation of the Tower being owned by HDS Group is concocted and a big lie.

With regards to non-property businesses mentioned in the Article, the item-wise facts are as under: -

5. Take a Break: These are two Coffee Shops in a small area of around 500/950 sq.ft, aimed at catering to part of the food and beverage requirements of the Office Owners and their employees. Coffee shops only employ three individuals, which indicate their negligible size and value.

6. HDS Mini Golf: HDS Mini Golf is a community service for the residents of the community in which this small facility is located. The approximately 500 land for the facility was given by the Master Developer of the Community (under control of the Government of Dubai). The facility can hardly recover the rent for the land and it is managed by merely 1 part-time employee, which reflects its negligible size and value.

7. HDS Owners Association Management Company: It is again a service company which only coordinates between the Board Members of the Owners Associations of HDS Tower/HDS Business Center and hundreds of Owners of the said Towers and charges a nominal fee for the said administrative services provided.

8. HDS Rent A Car: The story about car rental business has equally been distorted and is far from reality. It is a usual business in the UAE that owners do place their luxury cars with Rental Companies for renting out because of a considerable demand for such vehicles. Any person may rent out luxury cars through car rental companies, who charge part of the rental as their fee. In addition to that, the Roads and Transport Authority of UAE (“RTA”), Government of Dubai, allows for temporary transfer of Vehicles between Rent-a-Car companies which allows companies like HDS Rent A Car to offer to their clients cars owned not just by them but also by hundreds of other Car Rental companies in Dubai. The car rental business too is well-recorded, properly audited and is carried out according to the laws of UAE. The assertions and inferences made in this case too in the aforesaid Article are outrageously incorrect.

It is worth mentioning that all the above-said activities have already been made public electronically by HDS Group through postings on their websites etc but the writer Ms. Sabena Siddiqi, while copying, only selected part-information and unethically added lies to distort facts in a manner to give the readers a completely false and inaccurate picture, which is most regretful and against the very basic ethics of journalism. It is therefore evident that the sole reason for the said Article is political malice, jealousy and to lower our personal as well as commercial reputation in UAE and Pakistan. The online publishing of this Article and subsequent email and wide social media circulation of the false assertions and baseless assumptions is a defamatory, unlawful and damaging act. Such an act is evidently against the honorable and decent norms of a civilized society and liable to be condemned altogether. In actuality, we worked very hard for years and the present business position is the fruit of only hard work and God’s benevolence and no other source has ever been relied upon. We reserve the right to take legal recourse against the propagandists of such defamatory content.

As a Muslim, we must be wary of what has been ordained in the holy Quran in Surah Hujurat, Verse 6: “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.”