CAIRO: Egypt’s influential Lawyers’ Syndicate has called on the government to freeze sales at Talaat Moustafa’s (TMG) flagship real estate project after a court ruled the land on which it is built was sold illegally.
A court last week upheld a ruling that a housing ministry body broke the law by selling state land for the $3 billion Madinaty project without a public auction.
Analysts say Madinaty home sales — a major source of future revenues for TMG — could suffer from the dispute, which has rattled investors in Egypt’s real estate sector.
The government this week reassured Madinaty investors that the case would not harm their interests and formed a committee to try to settle the row.
But a letter sent to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif by the secretary general of the Lawyers’ Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee insisted TMG should not be taking payments from Madinaty clients following the High Administrative Court’s ruling.
"I filed a warning requesting that the prime minister and the general prosecutor speed up the process of freezing the money of the Madinaty project," the lawyer, Gamal Tag El Din Hassan, told Reuters on Wednesday.
"The annulment of the contract for the project prevents Talaat Moustafa Group from receiving any money from customers," Hassan said, adding that the firm must freeze any financial deals and stop selling units in the project.
Hamdy Fakhrany, a citizen who filed the case against TMG, said the warning letter was needed to protect the rights of the Egyptian people and ensure the court ruling was upheld.
"The government needs to understand that any action they take that violates the ruling will be challenged," Fakhrany said. "They will not get away with stealing the country or seeking to manipulate the law."
Housing ministry officials have said all state land sales were done at a fair price and according to Egyptian law.
Egypt’s cabinet has delayed until early next week a meeting originally planned for Wednesday that had been expected to offer a legal solution to the row.
The committee said on Wednesday it had sent Nazif its report and it contained the elements needed to implement the court’s ruling while protecting the rights of Madinaty investors.
But the letter from the lawyers’ group, which has great clout in Egypt, highlights the legal complexity facing the government that may complicate a quick solution.
Hassan said that if the government did not respond to his letter demanding compliance with the ruling, the syndicate would file another lawsuit to freeze any further deals.
TMG’s legal adviser said he was not aware of the letter and that it would not be legally binding in any event.
"Anybody has a right to send a warning letter but there is no value in this," said the adviser, Shawky El-Sayed. "Work on Madinaty is still going on." –Additional reporting by Ehab Farouk and Ashraf Badr