Monday, October 29, 2007

Suit: Bandar used bribe to build Aspen estate

by Brent Gardner-Smith from The Aspen Daily News

The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 19 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the City of Harper Woods Employees Retirement System, targets the board of directors of BAE Systems plc, a British defense contractor. It names Bandar as a key defendant. Prince Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005 before being named to a top security and defense position in the Saudi government ... The arms deal that Bandar helped negotiate involved the Saudis providing Britain with up to 600,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, British Aerospace, now part of BAE Systems, provided the Saudis with fighter jets, training jets, helicopters and technology. As part of the deal, BAE apparently provided $2 billion over the years to an account at the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., that Bandar had access to. It has been previously reported that Bandar is said to have used funds from the account to fund his travels as ambassador, but the lawsuit is the first time it has been alleged that Bandar may have used BAE funds to build his $135 million Starwood estate. Earlier this year, both Bandar and BAE issued statements strongly denying any wrongdoing.

British nationalist speaks at Texas A&M

by Travis Robinson from The Batt

British politician Nick Griffin, a proponent of closed-border policies and an anti-immigration leader, outlined the causes of what he said was the Islamization of Europe and how to stop it. "The Quran is the ultimate law in a Muslim society. You cannot have free speech, scientific inquiry and rule of men," Griffin said. "The liberal elite of Western Europe has surrendered, doesn't care to defend the values that the radical Muslims want to tear down." ... Not all who attended were in agreement, such as Ahmad El-Guindy, a visiting assistant professor from the department of mathematics. "For me, the main problem with [Griffin's] talk was that it was full of misinformation. I believe in free speech but I also believe in not spreading false information. If you take enough things out of context you can make any community sound hateful," he said during a question and answer session with Griffin.

Foreign funds raise concern: SEC chief

by Marcy Gordon from Business Week

Countries with sovereign wealth funds invited to a G-7 "outreach dinner" last Friday in Washington were: China, Korea, Kuwait, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates ... The Abu Dhabi fund recently bought 7.5% of the management operations of the U.S. private-equity firm, Carlyle Group. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the rise of sovereign wealth funds, along with that of government-owned companies that are publicly traded, "call into question the adequacy of our enforcement and regulatory regime." There is an "inherent conflict of interest that arises when government is both the regulator and the regulated," he said, and the opportunity for political corruption increases when individuals with government authority also possess massive commercial power.

Investor plans Sharia bourse

from The Gulf Daily News

Kuwait's Investment Dar, the Islamic investor that bought into British car-maker Aston Martin, said yesterday it had applied for permission to open a stock market that complies with Sharia. The exchange would be open to Kuwaiti and foreign companies that follow Islamic rules to cater for growing demand from the world's 1.2 billion Muslims for investments that comply with their beliefs. "There is always a premium paid for those kind of companies," Investment Dar's chairman Adnan Al Musallam said. "It's a big market. Islamic financial institutions manage more than $800bn, according to the Islamic Development Bank.

Our World: Shari'a-friendly investments

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

Shari'a finance became a significant factor in the Muslim world in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. The first Shari'a-compliant banks were established in 1975 with the opening of the Saudi-controlled Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Bank of Dubai. Today the International Monetary Fund estimates that there are some 300 Shari'a-compliant banks operating in some 75 countries ... Only certain Islamic entities are entitled to issue religious rulings or fatwas that can recognize investments as Shari'a-compliant. These entities include the Fiqh Academy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, which is associated with the Saudi-dominated Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the European Council for Fatwa Research, and the Fatwa Council of North America. All of these entities are associated with the radical pro-jihadist Wahabi and Salafi schools of Islam adhered to by groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas.

World's first Syariah-compliant hotel brand launched

by Nor Faridah Rashid from The New Straits Times

Dubai-based hospitality group Almulla has launched the world’s first Syariah-compliant hotel brand portfolio to accommodate demand from Muslim and non-Muslim travellers. The hotel group plans to have 30 properties by the end of 2008 with Malaysia being one of its targeted destinations. The group’s overall strategy is to reach 150 hotels by 2013 with expected total investment of over US$2 billion (US$1 = RM3.40), and is looking forward to setting up operations in Europe with 15 deluxe hotels, to be followed by 25 business hotels in “the second European wave”.... The group also said that all properties operating under the brands will respect and abide by Syariah principles and will not sell alcohol. It will serve only halal prepared food, as interpreted by Syariah laws and the Syariah supervisory board.

Malaysia Aims For Stronger Trade Linkages With OIC Countries

from Bernama

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) aims to create stronger trade linkages between Malaysia and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries, its chairman Tan Sri Halim Mohammad said Monday. According to Halim, the services sector offers good potential for collaboration among companies in OIC countries. These would include construction, education, healthcare, franchise, information and communications technology (ICT), and printing and publishing services, he said. He added that the top five markets in OIC countries for Malaysia's construction services last year were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Sudan.

Gulf property deals pass US$ 1 trillion

by Richard High from KHL's World Construction Week

Oil rich Arabian Gulf countries have started work on more than US$ 1 trillion worth of real estate projects as they spend windfall energy-export revenues on malls, office towers and theme parks, according to the latest report on the region’s construction and real estate sector by Dubai-based research & consultancy Proleads ... Such expenditure has only been possible thanks to the historically high price of oil, which have quadrupled since 2002 to a record high of US$ 90 a barrel. On the back of this the region’s governments are investing their money to reduce their reliance on energy exports by developing tourism, financial services and key industries. According to Proleads’ estimate the largest project in the six countries, the King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, which has tripled in size to 168 million m2, is worth US$ 120 billion.

GCC invests US$ 115 billion in manufacturing sector

from MENAFN Press

According to research company Proleads, the total value of all non-oil and gas industrial projects in the region currently exceeds US$ 115 billion. Already a major manufacturer, Saudi Arabia has an estimated total value of active industrial projects well in excess of US$ 50 billion. The Kingdom has started to accelerate the growth of its industrial base with numerous industrial zones being created. The latest, King Abdullah Economic City, is now being developed, outside of the Red Sea port of Jeddah, at an initial investment of US$ 26.6 billion.