Abu Dhabi’s incapacitated leader has built up what is likely to be the largest property portfolio in the English capital but questions remain as to who currently controls the assets.
The ruler of the UAE presides over a vast London property empire, which could make him one of the UK’s richest landowners, a report has revealed.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show that Sheikh Khalifa al Nahyan’s assets range from regular suburban homes to luxury complexes in some of the English capital’s most vaunted areas.
The British newspaper says the real estate empire was acquired through the use of a secretive network of shell companies and off-shore accounts, and includes around 170 properties with a total value of an estimated £5.5 billion or $7.16 billion.
Properties owned by Sheikh Khalifa include both commercial units, leased to London’s hedge funds and banks, as well as luxury blocks in neighbourhoods, such as Mayfair, Knightsbridge, and Kensington.
One notable property is home to Ecuador’s embassy in the United Kingdom, which was infamously home to whistleblower Julian Assange for years until his eviction and arrest in April 2019.
Who controls the wealth now?
Sheikh Khalifa’s health is the subject of much speculation outside the UAE and there are doubts as to whether the president of the federation has the medical capacity to deal with his personal businesses.
The country’s day-to-day running has been handled by the monarch’s brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014. In the rare public appearance he has made since, the leader of the UAE has appeared frail.
According to the Malaysian investigatory site, Sarawak Report, in 2015 Sheikh Khalifa’s holdings were placed into the trust of a committee led by his half brother, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, the owner of Manchester City Football Club. Sheikh Khalifa’s lawyers deny any transfer of assets was made.
The documents obtained by Sarawak Report show that they were signed by the crown prince, rather than Sheikh Khalifa.
In the past, Emirati officials have used their economic clout in the UK for more than just money making.
Revelations detailed in 2015 showed how the chairman of Manchester City, Khaldoon al Mubarak threatened the UK with the cancellation of arms contracts and the withdrawal of investments unless the country cracked down on groups it did not like, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Then Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently ordered a review into the group despite opposition from some of his own MPs.