Image via WikipediaDubai real estate investment portfolio manager Abid Al Boom is in Dubai court being accused of frittering away something like Dhs900 million of his clients' money according to media reports today. Seven Days splashed the sorry tale with glee, after the prosecution yesterday told of Al Boom's spending - apparently he had racked up a collection of 53 top-end cars, a luxury yacht and two 'party boats'. Something like 3,700 people had invested money in Al Boom's 'portfolio' which, according to Khaleej Times, consisted of a plot that could hardly account for 10% of the funds deposited.
Oddly enough (and uniquely), Emirates Business 24x7 neglects to mention the story at all. Even more oddly, the defendant in this case is not only being named (you usually see 'the accused, AAB) but is being very publicly named indeed. Al Boom himself, facing a possible sentence of two years in jail - or even a jail term 'until his dues are settled', has already had two judgments against him, a year in prison for bouncing a Dhs1.2 million cheque and three years in prison for issuing two cheques totalling Dhs5.240 million.
Looking back on it, Dubai's meteoric property boom was really a market running as fast as it could towards a brick wall shouting 'That's not a brick wall, that's not a brick wall'. With all the confidence, certitude and arrogance that unlimited success could breed, the whole thing spiralled out of all control - and the lack of regulation in the UAE's financial and real estate markets meant that unfettered capitalism ('laissez faire' has long been one of Dubai's favourite words) could bask side by side with criminality and abuse of trust. And it did.
What I find heartening is that cases like this are being heard and reported on. What I wonder is how many more there are out there. And how many investors got hurt when, as is inevitably the case, the chain letter finally reached everyone in the country.