THE James Packer-backed Gold Coast developer Sunland Group has complained to police and the corporate watchdog about two Australians accused of fraud in Dubai, and is expected to take civil action against the men to recover losses from their alleged crime.
Sunland, in which Mr Packer is a key shareholder and non-executive director, has laid the complaints against Matthew Joyce and Marcus Lee, executives from the colossal Dubai Waterfront project. The two have been charged with fraud after being jailed for six months on suspicion of bribery.
The pair insist they are innocent and Australian business sources have complained they became scapegoats amid the bursting of the property bubble in Dubai, where "commissions" or kickbacks are commonplace.
But now Sunland, which has billions at stake in Dubai, has made a formal complaint about Joyce and Lee to Queensland Police and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
In a media release yesterday, the day after the fraud charges were revealed, the company said: "Sunland understands that the charges relate, at least in part, to the purchase by one of its subsidiaries of a site from the Dubai Government-owned master developer Nakheel (Dubai Waterfront LLC), at Dubai Waterfront in October 2007."
It is understood that Sunland paid commissions to Dubai Waterfront, where Joyce was managing director and steering the world's biggest waterfront development.
Sunland's managing director Sahba Abedian said the company had been assisting Dubai authorities with their investigations since December 2008 and would continue to provide help when required. The company said it did not instigate the investigation into the executives.
Mr Abedian said: "Sunland has also taken steps to report the actions of certain individuals to the Australian authorities and we are investigating civil remedies in respect of the alleged fraud."
The statement did not name Joyce or Lee, but the company has confirmed that its complaint and action were against the executives, not Dubai Waterfront or Nakheel.
It is believed that any civil action will be launched in Australia, not Dubai.
Mr Abedian confirmed that Dubai authorities had returned the passport of David Brown, the Sunland's chief operating officer in the Emirates, now that the they had completed their investigation. He said Mr Brown was a witness and not a subject of investigation.
Joyce's lawyer, Matin Amad, said he was shocked by Sunland's action.
"No complaint about Joyce or Lee has been brought to my attention," he said yesterday afternoon. "I can't imagine any circumstances under which a complaint could be justified. The alleged offence occurred in Dubai, not in Australia. It sounds like they have an ulterior motive in doing this."
Mr Amad said the case against Joyce and Lee is weak. Joyce's wife and three children and Lee's wife are in Dubai, awaiting the outcome of their fraud trial.
Sunland said it only released the information now as it had not wanted to interfere with the Dubai investigation.
Source: The Age, Melbourne 22 July 2009