De­fense Min­istry and Bri­tish in­vestor con­tinue le­gal bat­tle over own­er­ship of prop­er­ties in Kyiv

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY MARK RACHKEVYCH

The De­fense Min­istry main­tains that it still owns mil­i­tary quar­ters and other prop­erty lo­cated on 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres) of land in cen­tral Kyiv that Bri­tish multi-mil­lion­aire Mo­ham­mad Za­hoor bought nearly a decade ago.

In a re­sponse to a Kyiv Post in­quiry, the De­fense Min­istry said it is dis­put­ing own­er­ship as part of an over­all en­deavor to re­gain prop­erty and land that was il­le­gally sold in “pre­vi­ous” years dur­ing a pe­riod of scal­ing down.

Specif­i­cally, it is try­ing to re-take six build­ings and other struc­tures on 24A Si­chovykh Strilt­siv (for­merly, Artema) Street near Kyiv’s Lviv Square.

“Note­wor­thy to em­pha­size is that in pre­vi­ous years the num­ber of Ukrainian Armed Forces units were re­duced, so were mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and sep­a­rate ter­ri­to­rial mil­i­tary camps, which cre­ated the con­di­tions for De­fense (Min­istry) land and funds to be ac­quired il­le­gally,” Col. Olek­sandr Mo­tuzyanyk, act­ing head of the min­istry’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion and press man­age­ment depart­ment, said.

Za­hoor, owner and chair­man of ISTIL Group, has called the De­fense Min­istry’s ef­forts a “raider” at­tack and has vowed to fight to keep the prop­erty and the land on which it sits for which he paid some $3 mil­lion to the city of Kyiv.

On Oct. 22, the Kyiv Eco­nomic Court of Ap­peal will hear Za­hoor’s case to re­verse a lower court’s rul­ing that in­val­i­dated the con­tract of sale and pur­chase of the land plot eight years ago in fa­vor of the De­fense Min­istry.

The Pak­istani-born in­vestor says the prop­er­ties were in a di­lap­i­dated state when they were pur­chased and that no con­struc­tion was done there since 2001.

He ret­ro­spec­tively learned that a mys­te­ri­ous com­pany reg­is­tered in ru­ral Rivne oblast had signed a con­tract in March 2017 with the De­fense Min­istry’s con­struc­tion author­ity to build a res­i­den­tial com­plex at the same ad­dress – two months be­fore he had reg­is­tered land own­er­ship upon com­plet­ing five yearly in­stall­ment pay­ments to the city.

Three com­pa­nies had bid for the De­fense Min­istry’s pro­posal to build a res­i­den­tial com­plex on 24A Si­chovykh Strilt­siv Street. Founded in 2015 in the vil­lage of Horodok, Prom­bud-M won de­spite hav­ing less than $300 in charter cap­i­tal and none of the re­quired li­censes from the State Ar­chi­tec­tural and Con­struc­tion Author­ity.

The com­pany, Prom­bud-M, had also chal­lenged the land sale to Za­hoor’s Parker Plus firm with the eco­nomic court and in­cluded the Kyiv City Coun­cil as a de­fen­dant. The De­fense Min­istry would later join as co-plain­tiff.

Za­hoor lost the ini­tial land sale and pur­chase case on May 22 on the eve that the ju­di­cial man­date of the pre­sid­ing judge, Vla­dyslav De­my­dov, was due to ex­pire.

“We con­sider this de­ci­sion as out­ra­geous and il­le­gal and ap­pealed… it,” Za­hoor said.

Prop­erty pur­chase

Be­fore the land was bought, Za­hoor first pur­chased the prop­er­ties from a third party “that had all the nec­es­sary ti­tle doc­u­ments and who had paid around $1 mil­lion to the Min­istry of De­fense for this prop­erty,” he said.

The Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice and De­fense Min­istry along with two pri­vate com­pa­nies chal­lenged the sale im­me­di­ately. Za­hoor even­tu­ally won all the court cases re­lated to the prop­er­ties, which cul­mi­nated in a Dec. 24, 2009 Supreme Court rul­ing.

The third party com­pany – Ukraine-Metal Ltd. – that had sold the prop­er­ties to Za­hoor was also sued. It was or­dered to pay the equiv­a­lent of $900,000 at that time to the De­fense Min­istry’s con­struc­tion author­ity in July 2009 as com­pen­sa­tion.

“Over­reg­u­la­tion” and the “lack of ef­fec­tive plan­ning co­or­di­na­tion” stim­u­lates “sub­jec­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing and un­ac­count­abil­ity” at the De­fense Min­istry, said Lada Rosly­cky of the In­de­pen­dent De­fense Anti- Cor­rup­tion Com­mit­tee ( NAKO), a cor­rup­tion watch­dog that was es­tab­lished by Ukrainian ac­tivists and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts.

Mo­ham­mad Za­hoor, chair­man of the ISTIL Group, speaks with the Kyiv Post on Sept. 27 in his head­quar­ters on Taras Shevchenko Boule­vard near Vic­tory Square. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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