CAIRO: An Egyptian court has received a challenge to the government’s plan to end a wrangle over a major housing project by Talaat Moustafa, adding a fresh twist to a saga that has rattled confidence in the real estate sector.
TMG’s flagship Madinaty development has been mired in a legal row since a court in June said the original contract on land for the scheme was illegal.
The cabinet approved a plan to scrap that contract but said it would reallocate the land to the firm under the same terms.
Shares in TMG have been volatile as they track each twist in the dispute.
The government has repeatedly sought to reassure investors who are worried about copycat cases in Egypt’s real estate sector which has been a magnet for foreign investment.
"Essam Ali Abdel Halim, lawyer, filed a lawsuit against the prime minister’s decision to allocate 8,000 feddans (8,300 acres) to Arab Company for Projects and Urban Development (a unit of TMG) on which the Madinaty project in New Cairo is established," the official said, citing a court document.
The document had a court reference number, indicating that the court will consider the merits of the case.
Although not involved in this suit, the deputy head of Egypt’s cassation court, Ahmed Mekky, said any citizen could lodge such a suit against a decision by the government or other bodies and the court would consider it.
TMG officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit against the original Madinaty land deal was filed by an engineer, Hamdy Fakhrany. He has also challenged a state land contract for developer Palm Hills and that case will be heard in court on Oct. 26.
The cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to resolve the Madinaty row, saying it would respect the court rulings to scrap the original contract. A lower and higher court had said the contract was illegal because land was not offered at auction.
But the government said it would sign a deal handing the land back to TMG based on its right to act in the national interest.
Housing Minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi said in remarks published on Tuesday that the government would not change terms for the revised deal and would take 7 percent of the project’s completed housing units, as in the original deal.
In Sunday’s announcement, the cabinet had said any new contract must not value the land at less than LE 9.98 billion ($1.75 billion), but had not specified whether it would keep the 7 percent rate.