Why Arab millionaire works as small Minsk company director

"Smart City" and Mohamed Alabbar / Euroradio collage​
"Smart City" and Mohamed Alabbar / Euroradio collage​

Emirates Blue Sky and Dubai Water Front are two companies belonging to Serbian businessmen, the Karic brothers. Not long ago they announced their withdrawal from the Belarusian market at the end of 2020. This happened shortly after the EU sanctions were imposed against the Dana companies. However, at the moment they are not in the process of liquidation and de jure operate as before.

However, on November 25, 2020, a new company called Lakeside Development appeared in Belarus. The Telegram channel 'Nick and Mike' linked it to Dana. We have checked those connections.

The most beautiful buildings and facilities

Lakeside Development was once founded by UAE-based Blueskay Holdings Limited. A company with the same name appeared in the Panama Papers: it is associated with several offshore companies in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and, interestingly enough, China.

While the founder has not been a very public person (at least in Belarus), the same cannot be said about the company head. Officially Lakeside Development is headed by Alabbar Rashid Mohamed Ali Rashid. The 64-year-old chairman of the Emaar Properties investment group has an interersting name: the press calls him Mohamed Ali Rashed Al-Abbar, Mohamed Ali Rashed Alabbar, Mohamed Al-Abbar or simply Mohamed Alabbar.

Зачем арабский миллионер работает директором небольшой минской фирмы

The businessman has been to Minsk several times and even met with Lukashenka. During that meeting they discussed investments in construction, or, to be more precise, in "the most beautiful buildings and facilities, which will be a hallmark of the UAE in the center of Europe".

Зачем арабский миллионер работает директором небольшой минской фирмы
Lukashenka and Allabar at the meeting in Minsk / BelTA

The Arab investor has a namesake - a 33-year-old businessman Rashid Mohamed Ali Rashed Alabbar. He may be related to the big investor. The "second" Alabbar is also a millionaire. He runs Ynap Middle East Holding Limited, a large holding registered in Great Britain.

But let's go back to Lakeside Development. Interestingly, for the first few months, from its inception to the end of January 2021, the company was run by Aleh Mikalayevich Kandratsyuk, a full namesake of the executive director of the Belarusian Basketball Federation. The BFB is headed by deputy head of the presidential administration, Maksim Ryzhankou.

Sky is so blue

Emaar Properties plans to develop the "Smart City" project in the north of Minsk with an estimated investment of 4 billion euros. The first stone at the construction site was symbolically laid by Prime Minister Raman Halouchanka on October 2, 2020.

Зачем арабский миллионер работает директором небольшой минской фирмы
Allabar and Halouchanka in Minsk. By the way, Halouchanka was Belarusian ambassador to the UAE / SB

Then, in October 2020, the customer of the "Smart City" construction of was Emirates Blue Sky, the above mentioned company of the Karic brothers. Moreover, it received this name associated with the Arab world shortly before it was included in the project. But before that, it was called Zomex Investment. After the Western sanctions hit, and renaming companies became a fashionable attempt to avoid sanctions.

Зачем арабский миллионер работает директором небольшой минской фирмы

The Belarusian government referred to the Arab investor in its reports as "Mohamed Al Abbar, Chairman of the Board of Emirates Blue Sky LLC". 

The names Bluesky Holdings Limited (founded by Lakeside Development) and Emirates Blue Sky (a legal entity associated with the Karich brothers) have in common two words -- "blue sky". That, of course, could just be a coincidence. 

Emaar Properties has other connections with Serbian businessmen: they promoted big construction projects together in Belgrade and Moscow. However, at a meeting with Halouchanka in February, the head of Emaar Properties denied Dana's participation in the Belarusian project. Probably, the reason was the fact that the holding with Serbian roots was under sanctions. The projects are distanced as much as possible in order to avoid the toxicity that the investors of the "Smart City" can feel already at the start.