NEW DELHI: Nearly 35,000 Indians own almost 69,000 properties worth $30 billion or Rs 2.4 trillion in Dubai, emerging as the largest foreign owners, both by value of properties owned and the number of properties owned, in this emirate.

The properties owned by Indian nationals constitute almost 20% of Dubai’s real estate. This has been revealed in a study done by the European Union (EU) Tax Observatory, an independent research laboratory, hosted by Paris School of Economics, which is working on taxation. The study was made public in May. These numbers are updated till the end of the 2020-2021 financial year and the study does not elaborate on the timeline when these properties were purchased or the background of these purchasers.

Dubai-based sources, aware of the investments made by Indians in Dubai in the last few years, told The Sunday Guardian that a large number of these properties have been bought by relatives of former bureaucrats, politicians, tax professionals and lawyers, apart from businessmen and movie stars.

Many Indians, who are wanted by the law, have fled to Dubai and bought properties there. An example is Sanjay Kumar Choudhary, one of the co-accused and kingpins of the Rs 4,000 crore Madhu Koda coal imbroglio, who despite a Red Corner notice, issued in response to a request of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), pending against him, is active in Dubai. Similarly, aides and family members of the late Iqbal Mirchi, close to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, have bought multiple properties in Dubai as The Sunday Guardian wrote in November 2015. (Agencies pursue Mirchi trail to reach Dawood).

After Indians, residents of the United Kingdom come a distinct second in this list. As many as 23,000 UK nationals have bought 40,000 properties, worth $15 billion which is 10% of the total value of Dubai’s real estate. The remaining top countries by aggregate values, as per the study, include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, and Russia. About 8% of offshore Dubai real estate belongs to owners from the European Union.

The EU tax observatory analysed a dataset that captured the ownership of about 800,000 properties in Dubai. The said data was provided to the organization by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a US non-profit organization dedicated to analysis and reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide. The C4ADS was handed over the data by confidential sources. The data is based on government records of property transactions in Dubai. The data contains the passport number of the buyer and also his or her local UAE identification number to ensure accuracy.

As per the study, Indian nationals have bought many properties in the “affluent areas” which have been identified by the observatory as the areas that include Al Barari, Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Hills, Springs, and Burj Khalifa. The average value of properties bought by these Indians is Rs 3.60 crore per property.
The total value of the Dubai property market owned by foreigners, the study has estimated, is at least $146 billion, which is twice as much as real estate held in London by foreigners through shell companies. The total market value of properties in Dubai is estimated at US$533 billion in 2020.

As per the report, about 70% of Dubai’s properties owned by Norwegian taxpayers were not reported for tax purposes in 2019 to the Norwegian government. India based officials believe that the corresponding number of Indian taxpayers owning properties in Dubai and not declaring them may also be significant. The study could not identify the nationality of about 7% of the owners.

Dubai, one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates and its largest city, is the economic and financial hub of the UAE. The emirate has more than three million residents, according to official statistics. The foreign-owned real estate market in Dubai, the study found, is about twice as large as in London, despite the fact that Dubai (with a population of 3.5 million) is only a third the size of London (population of 9 million). The study gives evidence of the success of the Indian diaspora over the past years.