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Sunland loses battle over Dubai land deal

dubai3GOLD Coast property developer Sunland has failed to persuade the Victorian Court of Appeal that it was duped into paying a $14 million walk-away fee for a block of land in Dubai to two Melbourne men later convicted of receiving a bribe over the deal.

Matthew Joyce, the former general manager of the state-owned Dubai Waterfront, received a 10-year jail sentence and a $25m fine over charges that in 2007 he conspired with Angus Reed to share a secret commission on the sale of a block known as D17 in Dubai.

Reed has been convicted in absentia, while another Australian, Marcus Lee, was acquitted.

Sunland alleged Reed had falsely claimed that he had a legally enforceable right over the block of land it purchased from DWF for $63m in October 2007.

Sunland paid Reed a $14m walk-away fee, which it alleged was secretly shared with Joyce.

The appeal court decision, handed down by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren yesterday, upheld the finding of judge Clyde Croft that Sunland had failed to produce evidence that Reed had claimed a right over the plot.

“Since Sunland was unable to establish its first allegation, concerning ‘the right to acquire’, the need to focus at length on the remaining representations was largely disposed of,” they said.

Sunland also failed to persuade the court the alleged secret commission should have been included in its pleadings in the case by Justice Croft, who found that Sunland had made the allegations three days before the start of the trial. This would require an adjournment out of fairness to Joyce, he said. However, for practical reasons the trial could not be adjourned, so the judge did not allow Sunland to alter its pleading, but the material was allowed into evidence. This included an email Reed had sent to his lawyers asking for the creation of a deed so an eventual buyer of the property could only deal with him.

Sunland had also supplied a contract dated January 2006 between Reed and Joyce under which Joyce would be paid a fee if he identified properties in the Middle East which Reed’s company Prudentia later bought. Reed and Joyce had agreed Prudentia would pay Joyce a secret commission, being half the amount it received from Sunland over the D17 transaction, Sunland had alleged. It also claimed that Dubai prosecutors had established that Joyce had directed Reed to transfer 22,052,890 dirhams to an Jersey bank account.

The appeal judges found that whether Joyce received any of the fee was not a question the trial judge had to resolve.

They found the trial judge had not erred in making adverse findings about the credit of Sunland’s witnesses, including chief executive Soheil Abedian and former Dubai chief David Brown.

Joyce said the judgment was “very welcome news”.-The Australian