ZUMA’S DUBAI PALACE

AND GUESS WHO LIVES NEXT DOOR?

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA and STEPHAN HOFSTATTER

HERE is the lux­u­ri­ous Dubai man­sion the Gupta brothers bought for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

And his close neigh­bour in the ex­clu­sive gated es­tate is none other than Zim­babwe’s Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

Zuma’s home is Villa L35 on Lailak Street in Emi­rates Hills, billed as the “most ex­pen­sive postal code” in a city so flashy that the po­lice drive Bu­gat­tis.

The pala­tial home comes com­plete with 10 bed­rooms, 13 bath­rooms, a dou­ble grand stair­case, nine re­cep­tion rooms and space for 11 cars. The top-of-the-range fit­tings fea­ture an ex­cess of mar­ble, mo­saic and gold.

The sparkling pool fringed with palm trees is larger than the “fire pool” at Zuma’s Nkandla com­pound.

Close by in the same lux­ury es­tate is a house that was owned by Mu­gabe. Al­though less op­u­lent than the Zuma palace, it nev­er­the­less fea­tures 10 bed­rooms.

Dur­ing a Sun­day Times in­ves­tiga­tive trip to Dubai last year, sev­eral in­de­pen­dent sources told the news­pa­per the Gup­tas had bought Zuma a R330-mil­lion re­tire­ment home in the up­mar­ket sub­urb of Emi­rates Hills in 2015, the same year that Duduzane Zuma bought an apart­ment for R18-mil­lion in the Burj Khal­ifa.

The sources in­cluded busi­ness­men with com­pa­nies or homes in Dubai, se­nior ANC of­fi­cials and peo­ple close to the Zuma fam­ily.

At the time, how­ever, the Sun­day Times could only con­firm that the Gup­tas had bought the house and that Duduzane had bought the Burj Khal­ifa apart­ment.

The fact that the house was for Zuma has now ap­par­ently been con­firmed in the leaked Gupta e-mails.

The e-mails also show Duduzane ac­quired res­i­dency of the United Arab Emi­rates on Oc­to­ber 5 2015, strength­en­ing the Zuma fam­ily’s ties with the ter­ri­tory. The per­mit ex­pires in Oc­to­ber 2018.

Leaked e-mails show Tony Gupta ne­go­ti­ated to ac­quire Villa L35 for Zuma with Le­banese busi­ness­man Adib Has­san Ataya in July 2015.

The pur­chase was made af­ter Tony had made an ap­point­ment with Gre­gory Lewis from Knight Frank es­tate agency to view the place at 1pm on April 14 2015.

Shortly af­ter buying the villa, Tony’s elder brother, Atul, en­tered into an agree­ment with Yang Swiss Clean­ing Ser­vices to clean the house for 8 320 dirham, about R30 000, a month, start­ing on De­cem­ber 20 2015.

Last week the Sun­day Times re­ported on two draft let­ters Tony first cir­cu­lated to Sa­hara CEO Ashu Chawla and then to Zuma’s son, Duduzane, which ap­pear to sug­gest Zuma was plan­ning to re­lo­cate to Dubai.

Both are ad­dressed to His High­ness Vice-Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and ap­pear to be drafts pre­pared for Pres­i­dent Zuma’s sig­na­ture and bear­ing his name.

A third draft has emerged, list­ing the villa as Zuma’s house.

“I am happy to in­form you that my fam­ily has de­cided to make the UAE, and specif­i­cally Dubai, a sec­ond home and have al­ready ac­quired a res­i­dence lo­cated at Emi- rates Hills, Dubai (Villa No L-35, Lailak Street No 1),” says the third draft let­ter.

“It will be a great honor for me and my fam­ily to gain your pa­tron­age dur­ing our proposed res­i­dency in the UAE es­pe­cially around se­cu­rity is­sues since my son and the fam­ily will be trav­el­ling quite ex- ten­sively in and out of the UAE.”

In 2015 Mu­gabe’s wife Grace bought a house in the same neigh­bour­hood for R130-mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a Dubai es­tate agent who claimed he sold it to her.

The first lady — known as “Gucci Grace” for her ex­trav­a­gant shop­ping habits — had pre­vi­ously been rent­ing the prop­erty for R500 000 a month and reg­u­larly stayed there with her son, the agent said. It is un­der­stood he was re­fer­ring to Robert Mu­gabe jnr.

In Au­gust last year Mu­gabe cut short his par­tic­i­pa­tion at the 36th SADC heads of state sum­mit in Swazi­land and flew to Dubai on “fam­ily busi­ness”.

Mu­gabe’s man­sion — Villa J11 on Jul­nar 2 Street — is down the road from Villa L35 on Lailak Street.

De­tails of the Mu­gabe house first emerged in court pa­pers dur­ing a dis­pute over a $1.35-mil­lion (R17 mil­lion) di­a­mond ring be­tween Grace and Le­banese busi­ness­man Ja­mal Ahmed.

The leaked e-mails also con­firm that Duduzane bought the lux­ury apart­ment in the Burj Khal­ifa for R17.8-mil­lion through one of the com­pa­nies he co-owns with the Gup­tas‚ Wens Hold­ings Ltd.

The apart­ment is about 175m² and was ac­quired in De­cem­ber 2015 with a de­posit equiv­a­lent to R1 778 916.

The Burj Khal­ifa, billed as “the world’s most pres­ti­gious ad­dress, home to a se­lect few”, is the tallest build­ing in the world.

Ser­viced apart­ments de­signed by Gior­gio Ar­mani go for as much as R100-mil­lion and smaller stu­dios for R10-mil­lion.

The Burj Khal­ifa boasts in­door and out­door pools, state-of-the-art gyms, jacuzzis and sky bars and restau­rants where pa­trons can take in spec­tac­u­lar views of the city and the Ara­bian Gulf.

Asked for com­ment yes­ter­day, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga said: “Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma does not own a house out­side the bor­ders of South Africa. He has no in­ten­tion of own­ing one any time in the fu­ture.

“As he said last week, when he re­tires he will re­turn to Nkandla.

“He has not told any­body to look for a house for him any­where out­side the coun­try.

“The pres­i­dent is un­able to com­ment on cor­re­spon­dence, whether au­then­tic or not, which he was not in­volved in and which was also not brought to his at­ten­tion by any­one.”

Mu­gabe’s spokesman Ge­orge Charamba yes­ter­day con­firmed that the Zim­bab­wean pres­i­dent had rented a lux­ury prop­erty for his son in Dubai.

“As a re­spon­si­ble fa­ther, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe rented that prop­erty for his son who was study­ing in Dubai. The prop­erty is no longer there,” he said.

Emi­rates Hills boasts a cham­pi­onship golf course and “wide, sparkling lakes”. The es­tate agent who claimed he sold the Emi­rates Hills house to Grace Mu­gabe told the Sun­day Times any­one with a pile of cash could buy a villa in Dubai in no time, with few ques­tions asked.

“If you’ve got money in the bank you can do a money trans­fer. If the money is in cash, which means it’s not le­git, we have to find other means. But it’s not a prob­lem,” said the agent.

“Peo­ple come here to buy prop­er­ties with cash in their pri­vate jets. When the Saudis come here they don’t come with credit cards.”

Hid­ing own­er­ship is as easy. “If you have to pay tax back in South Africa you just open a Jebel Ali off­shore com­pany. The com­pany owns the as­set, and you have share­hold­ers. They will not dis­close their iden­tity to any govern­ment.

“If you have to de­clare it back

He has not told any­body to look for a house for him any­where out­side the coun­try

home that’s up to you. If you don’t de­clare it, you don’t de­clare it. There’s no chance of a Panama Pa­pers sit­u­a­tion here,” the es­tate agent said.

If Zuma took up res­i­dence in Emi­rates Hills he would be in il­lus­tri­ous com­pany. Asif Ali Zar­dari, hus­band of for­mer Pak­istan pres­i­dent Be­nazir Bhutto, has a house there. Zar­dari was jailed for eight years for arms-deal cor­rup­tion and mon­ey­laun­der­ing and moved to Dubai af­ter his re­lease in 2004.

An­other res­i­dent is for­mer Thai prime min­is­ter Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra. He was de­posed in a coup in 2006 and jailed in ab­sen­tia af­ter be­ing ac­cused of cor­rup­tion, tax eva­sion and abuse of power.

Pri­vacy, se­cu­rity, se­crecy and dis­cre­tion are the watch­words at Emi­rates Hills.

The es­tate is sur­rounded by high walls and fences, ac­cess is strictly con­trolled and sur­veil­lance cam­eras track vis­i­tors.

In­side, an at­mos­phere of mon­eyed tran­quil­lity pre­vails, with res­i­dents jog­ging or cy­cling around ar­ti­fi­cial lakes, strolling down the broad av­enues or driv­ing past in Roll­sRoyces and Bent­leys.

Ar­chi­tec­tural plans must be ap­proved by the de­vel­oper, the state­backed Emaar group that also con­structed the Burj Khal­ifa.

“Peo­ple have dis­cos in their base­ments for pri­vate par­ties,” said one es­tate agent. “Kylie Minogue was brought in se­cretly to sing at some­one’s birth­day party.”

Some of the more es­tab­lished lo­cals have a sar­donic view of the con­stant stream of new ar­rivals.

“You need $20-mil­lion to $30-mil­lion to buy a prop­erty here,” com­mented one res­i­dent sit­ting on a park bench feed­ing scraps to a swarm of cats. “Maybe you brought along some dirty money you want to wash?”

NEIGHBOURLY: Zim­babwe’s Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe and Ja­cob Zuma

GILT SE­CRET: In­side the house the Gup­tas bought for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in 2015; they also helped his son Duduzane buy an apart­ment

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