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TOPIC: real estate


Wealthy Russians Are Back To Buying Real Estate In Europe — Sanctions Be Damned

After the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian oligarchs and other rich individuals turned to the real estate markets in Dubai and Turkey. Now Russian buyers are back in Europe. Three EU countries in particular are attracting buyers for their controversial "golden visa" program.

BERLINWestern sanctions imposed after the start of Russia's war against Ukraine have made financial outflows from Russia much more difficult — and paradoxically have also helped to strengthen Russia's economy, as the renowned economist Ruben Enikolopov recently noted in an interview for the online media "The Bell".

So while sanctions have not completely prevented these financial flows, they played a role in changing their direction.

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It was notable in real estate purchases during the first year of the war: as Russian buyers moved away from the previously coveted European market to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as to Turkey or the South Caucasus and even Southeast Asia.

Instead of "Londongrad", where the high- to middle-income earners from Vladimir Putin's empire turned for the previous two decades, people suddenly started talking about "Dubaigrad."

But this trend now seems to have peaked, with unexpected signs that Russians are back on the European real estate market.

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Gabon And Niger Coups Are A Wake-Up Call To Confront Kleptocracy In Africa

After a series of coups in West Africa, what will happen to the corrupt systems set up by past rulers — will they endure, or could reform be ahead?


PARIS — In a video captured more than 10 years ago, Cameroonian President Paul Biya can be seen surrounded by other heads of state, complaining to his peers about the so-called "ill-gotten gains" investigation in France.

He accused his opponents and the media of being behind the investigation, which stemmed from complaints that the president had embezzled public funds. He brushed off the allegations as a mere nuisance, if not the work of conspiracy theorists.

The "ill-gotten gains" case originated from a complaint filed in 2007 by non-governmental organizations in France against several African heads of state, regarding real estate properties in Paris allegedly purchased with embezzled funds.

This scene gains new significance in light of the recent coup that toppled President Ali Bongo of Gabon. The Bongo family is central to this extensive investigation launched in France into the origin of the funds that allowed several ruling families in central Africa to acquire real estate holdings in Paris.

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How Germany's Office Building Market Went From Bubble To Bust

Higher, faster, more expensive – in German cities, renting out office space was a booming business. Then came remote working and higher interest rates.

FRANKFURT — The four towers still look like huge stone skeletons. But in some places, there are already windows appearing in the façade. The “Four” building project in Frankfurt is due to be completed in two years’ time. It will have more than 200,000 square meters of floor space, housed in tower blocks that soar to heights of 233 meters. Plenty of space for apartments, shops and, above all, offices.

A few hundred meters away, José Martínez sits at his desk in a much less spectacular building. On the wall behind him hang sketches of other planned tower blocks. Martínez is CEO of Groß & Partner, which has overseen the construction of the towering “Four” over the past 10 years.

He has no doubt that the effort has been worth it. “A mixed-use building in a prime location is an easy sell,” he says, adding that more than 80% of the office space has already been reserved.

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End Of The Road? When A Vanlifer Buys Her First House

After living in a campervan for more than a year, the author reflects on the limits of both settling down and rolling on forever.

SAINT MALO — It’s an old stone house lost in the countryside of France’s northern Brittany region, with a bright and spacious living room, and a beautiful green garden that opens onto a huge plot of land. And now it’s ours.

When my partner and I were at the notary’s office, signing the ownership title in our first home, we knew it was one of those big steps in life we’d never forget. But in our case, it wasn’t just the nervous excitement of opening a new chapter; it was also the bitter-sweetness of closing another.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Will Putin's ICC Arrest Warrant Reignite The Nuclear Threat? One Plain Reason Not To Worry

The war crimes arrest warrant issued by the Hague puts the pressure on the Russian president. Would that prompt him to follow through on his past threats to use nuclear weapons? An extensive investigation by independent Russian publication Project.Media into Putin's life finds that he has other priorities closer to home.

Over his 23 years in power, Vladimir Putin has gone from a young liberal politician to an authoritarian dictator.

Before becoming president, Putin was a mediocre KGB officer who'd earned him the nickname "Moth" and worked with St. Petersburg thugs on low-level missions. There was no outward sign that he would evolve into the image of a global ideological leader for Russians, and enemy No. 1 of the civilized world.

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His failure to conquer Ukraine and open conflict with the West have prompted him to repeatedly make reference to Russia's nuclear arsenal. Fears and threats of the nuclear option may be revived after Friday's decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for the Russian President for alleged war crimes, including claims of the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Moscow has denied the accusations, and denounced the warrants as "outrageous." While some debate whether Putin can actually be arrested, there is also the question of what the Kremlin would do in response. How obsessed is Putin in punishing the West? How far could a cornered Putin go?

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Hector Zajac

The Direct Link Between Turkey's Earthquake Toll And Global Real Estate Markets

The shoddy homes that collapse on their inhabitants in Turkey's recent earthquake were badly, and hastily, built as part of a worldwide real-estate fever typically fueled by greedy governments indifferent to safety norms and common sense.


There is bitter irony in an earthquake striking a zone already decimated by terrorism and war, where the vulnerable must suffer from natural destruction on top of their rulers' cruelty or, at best, cynical indifference. Under such calamitous conditions, how is one to interpret the observation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the February quakes that killed more than 40,000 were fate's work?

The countries hit, Turkey and Syria, lie on a seismic powder keg. They have shaken before and will keep shaking, and nothing can be done about that. But much can be done to prevent the natural vulnerabilities that threaten so many countries becoming disasters of Biblical proportions. Something can always be done to mitigate the harm of even a 7.8-level quake and its aftershocks striking at the end of a freezing winter night.

Talking of the clash of tectonic plates is confusing, as the scale can boggle the mind. But it refers to the movements of vast plaques, 70 kilometers thick, that rub against each other while shifting in opposing directions. Even without a cataclysm like the earthquakes, such movements can push up the ground a few centimeters a year to form mountain ranges over millions of years.

In this process, rocks on their edges accumulate enormous amounts of pressure that are suddenly released in quakes as they snap, before moving.

Our short time on this planet has amply shown the impact of a shifting earth on our fragile civilization and socio-economic organization.

And while science has evolved and can better predict earthquakes, it has yet to do it well enough to allow for a city's evacuation.

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Shaun Lavelle, Riley Sparks, Ginevra Falciani

Why More Countries Are Banning Foreigners From Buying Real Estate

Canada has become the most recent country to impose restrictions on non-residents buying real estate, arguing that wealthy investors from other countries are pricing out would-be local homeowners. But is singling out foreigners the best way to face a troubled housing market?

PARIS — It’s easy to forget that soon after the outbreak of COVID-19, many real estate experts were forecasting that housing prices could face a once-in-generation drop. The logic was that a shrinking pandemic economy would combine with people moving out of cities to push costs down in a lasting way.

Ultimately, in most places, the opposite has happened. Home prices in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand rose between 25% and 50% since the outbreak of COVID-19.

This explosion was driven by a number of factors, including low interest rates, supply chain issues in construction and shortages in available properties caused in part by investors buying up large swathes of housing stock.

Yet some see another culprit deserving of particular attention: foreign buyers.

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Vincent-Xavier Morvan

Oligarchs Au Revoir: Russia's War Drifts On To The French Riviera

The likely defection of Russian tourists this summer is clouding the prospects of tourism professionals in the South of France, whose activity is still recovering from the pandemic. An emblematic snapshot of the after-effects of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

NICE — “Barring a world war, the summer is looking pretty good. We already have a lot of reservations from Americans and Canadians...”

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Michel Tschann, owner of the Splendid Hotel in Nice and honorary president of the French Riviera hoteliers’ union, is trying to make the best of a bad situation. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine is likely to darken the skies for the local professionals, whose business was just starting up again after successive COVID-19 shutdowns.

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Gwendolyn Ledger

Are Rich Latin Americans Creating A Miami Real Estate Bubble?

Wealthy Latin Americans have been among the most active home buyers in Miami, which now may be creating a "tough" sellers' market perceived by some as simply a haven for assets threatened by instability in home countries.


MIAMI — If New York is the city that never sleeps, Miami may well be the city that never stops growing. Florida's bilingual paradise with dreamy beaches is expanding both upwards and sideways, and has received almost 1,000 new residents a day since 2020, according to figures from local realtors ISG Realty and ISG World.

The attraction has spread to surrounding districts and counties, both for Florida's climate and beaches and for the security and stability the United States assures. Geraldo, a financier from Peru, has been living in Weston, in Broward County north-east of Miami, for almost a year. He decided to buy a house with a garden there for the area's reputable schools, infrastructure and "impressive security." These and other factors like Florida's lower personal taxes have all fueled demand for homes in several districts of southern Florida and also in Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa.

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Flavia Lopes*

How The Real Estate Market Ghettoizes Muslims In India

A year after riots in Delhi and elsewhere, Muslims are being forced out of their neighborhoods.

NEW DELHI — Gali no. 13 is a typical lane in Shiv Vihar Phase-6, a low-income neighborhood in North-East Delhi. This lane is so narrow only two-wheelers can pass through. Sewage flows in open drains on both sides. At one end of the lane is a Hanuman temple. At the other is the Madina mosque.

In February 2020, this was one of the sites of the worst communal riots in Delhi's history since the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. Fifty-three people were killed and thousands more were injured or displaced. At Gali no. 13, rioters damaged the Madina mosque and Muslim family homes near it were burnt, damaged or vandalized.

One year later, even as communities and courts come to terms with what happened in those harrowing days, a major change is slowly unfolding in these lanes – a change best described by 40-year-old Zubaida Begum. Although her house was spared from violence and her son narrowly escaped rioters, in July 2020 Begum and her husband Salim sold their house and moved out.

"We were stressed that every other Muslim family from the lane was leaving and we were feeling isolated," Begum told me one morning in February 2021, from a new house she is renting. "We were the last to move out, five months after the riots." Begum stayed within Shiv Vihar, but out of the Gali and near the main road where she says she feels safer.

In the last one year, the number of Muslim families selling their homes in this riot-hit neighborhoods has increased, as demonstrated by research recently conducted by Land Conflict Watch, an independent network of researchers studying land conflicts, climate change and natural resource governance in India.

Muslims families sold their houses fast at reduced prices – at least 25% below market rates, according to several testimonies including from property dealers, some of whom appear to have encouraged the sales.

The next generation will not have the opportunity to call a member of the other community as their friend.

Mohammed Rizwan, a property dealer who operates from an office near Gali no. 13, said he is looking for buyers for nearly 40 homes put up on sale by Muslim families. He is so busy, he is barely in his office. There were about eight Muslim families who lived in Gali no. 13 before Feb. 2020; now, only two or three have remained, said Mohammad Mukhim, another resident of the lane who moved into a rented house in another lane of Shiv Vihar Phase-6.

When asked if he will manage to sell all the houses, Rizwan said that sales happened when sellers were open to selling both at a sizable loss and had no restrictions on the buyers' religion – meaning they were open to selling to Hindu families.

The segregation in neighborhoods like in Delhi can result in future violence, as research across the world has shown.

"As long as you live in a mixed colony, there is a greater chance to intermingle," says Harsh Mander of the Centre for Equity Studies in Delhi. "Now, the next generation will not even have the opportunity to call a member of the other community as their friend. Then the manufacturing of hatred becomes easy."

"In the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, courts stepped in to pause or restrict the sale of properties and, although this led to mixed outcomes, it slowed down distress sales," said Teesta Setalvad, a civil rights activist and secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, an organization formed to seek justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In Delhi, neither the NCT nor the Union governments have made any effort to address the sale of properties and the segregation of neighborhoods. The Delhi NCT government led by Arvind Kejriwal governs the registration of property transactions. The Union government's Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs governs land administration in the city-state and of the so-called unauthorized colonies like Shiv Vihar, which was regularized in 2019.

We sent emails to NCT deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and Delhi Development Authority vice-chairman Tarun Kapoor on March 9 and March 15, seeking their responses on the regulation and restriction of the sale of properties in riot-affected localities like Shiv Vihar.

Sisodia forwarded the email to Kailash Gahlot, minister of law, justice and legislative affairs, and Dinkar Adeeb, an officer on special duty to the housing minister in the Delhi government, to "look into the matter and take appropriate action". A similar response was received from the DDA.

Without intervention from the government, there will be permanent changes to the demographics of North-East Delhi, which may make the region vulnerable to more riots in the future.

Gali no. 13 runs between two main roads near Hanuman Mandir tiraha in Karawal Nagar and the main road of Shiv Vihar.

Houses and shops in the area demolished in the riots are being reconstructed. Newly added cement and bricks can be easily identified. Masons are still working on some houses; the smell of wet paint fills the air.

The families here make a living from driving cars and running bakeries and Xerox stores.

Zubaida Begum, whose husband works as a welder, sits in a tiny room in her rented house on the main road of Shiv Vihar Phase-6. A small rickety staircase leads to a terrace and the house's only toilet.

She and her family of ten moved here in July 2020 after selling their old home. This is a rented house; they have been looking for a house of their own but it is difficult to buy one because they sold their earlier house for much lower than the price of equivalent homes. "This is our makeshift house," she says. They had made up their mind to sell their house while they were still living at their relative's place after the riots. She told us that she sold her 25 gaj house (equal to 225 square metres) house for Rs 12 lakh, though the market value would be around Rs 18 lakh.

It is wise to sell it to Hindus only. Why push another Muslim family into the ‘jungle"?

However, they didn't move out of Shiv Vihar. "We cannot afford to live outside of Shiv Vihar," she says. "Thankfully, this house is on the main road," she says.

"After the riots, the property rates have gone down by 20-25% in Shiv Vihar," says Mohammad Ameel of Pappu Bhai Mansuri Properties in Shiv Vihar.

"A few asked me to sell it to only Muslim families, they are still looking for buyers," said Rizwan, the property dealer. All the buyers are Hindu families, he said. "It is wise to sell it to Hindus only. Why push another Muslim family into the ‘jungle"?" says Rizwan, making a reference to emerging Hindu-majority lanes.

Within the last year, real estate dealers have encouraged Muslim families to sell their houses, stoking fears of demographic change within the neighbourhood, said Mukhim, a resident of the lane. Mukhim, who lived in Gali no. 13, said the moment he decided to move out, real estate dealers were badgering him to sell his house even if it meant doing so at a loss. They kept saying, "Shift to your gad (fort), why do you want to risk your own safety," he said. Mukhim hasn't sold his house as it is getting rebuilt. But the property agents are still pushing him to sell, he says.

Residents and agents, many who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that it was Muslim families who sold homes in the area, in order to move to other Muslim-dominated areas of Shiv Vihar or further away to Mustafabad or Maujpur.

Kanta Goswami, whose house is at the beginning of Gali no. 13 near the Hanuman Mandir, says that none of the Hindu families from the lanes had sold their homes or moved out after the riots. When asked about the Muslim families leaving the lanes, she only says, "They look after their safety and we have look after our safety."

Communal violence and segregation

These instances reflect findings of lawyers and social scientists who have studied the aftermath of the North-East Delhi violence.

"Several Muslim families we came across reported regular harassment from Hindu neighbours after the riots, to such a degree that they felt they had no choice but to move out," says Ashmeet Kaur from the Institute of Social Studies Trust, which is involved in relief work in Seelampur.

Not only riots but the "fear of riots' has been driving housing segregation, says Mehmood Pracha, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been defending several persons accused in the riots in Delhi. He added that local strongmen – other than the real estate agents – play on this fear and have become prominent in these localities.

After the 1984 riots, many families from Shahdara, Gandhi Nagar and Shakarpur in Delhi fled to Sikh ghettos in Tilak Nagar and Tilak Vihar.

In the Bombay riots of 1994, many Hindu and Muslim families moved out from mixed neighbourhoods to ghettos. As a result, many housing co-operatives in Mumbai began to refuse residence to families from any other community. Similarly, localities like Juhapura in Ahmedabad, one of the biggest Muslim ghettos was formed after the Gujarat riots of 1992 and 2002.

French political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot suggests that the process of ghettoisation after riots is not just an urban phenomenon. "In 2013, violence spread in the rural parts of Muzaffarnagar district, resulting in new forms of village-based ghettoisation," he wrote in a column in 2015. He wrote that ghettoization does not only segregate people but it can also lead to the neglect of the provision of basic amenities by the authorities.

Border security officers outside a mosque in New Delhi, in August. — Photo: Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Violence plays the most important role in ghettoizing or turning mixed areas into monolithic or homogenous areas, says Dr Mohsin Alam Bhatt, principal investigator of the Housing Discrimination Project that collected empirical information on the religious biases in urban India's rental housing market. People are also afraid of the possibility of violence happening which leads to this fragile choice of selling the house and moving to other areas, Bhatt says. "They don't want to be caught unaware."

Harvard University's Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren found during their research on segregation in neighbourhoods in the United States that highly segregated areas can affect social and economic mobility of an individual. Children growing up in segregated neighbourhoods are more emotionally vulnerable and prone to failure. "Every extra year of childhood spent in a better neighbourhood seems to matter," their paper said.

In Gujarat, in the aftermath of the 2002 riots, the court intervened in many cases to stop forced distress sales, says Setalvad. "As a result, several people in localities like Gulbarg and Naroda Patiya still have properties in their name even though they haven't returned to live in these localities."

In 2006, the Bihar government said that it would attempt to return property to the original owners who were survivors of the Bhagalpur riots of 1988, and that it would identify those guilty of forcing distress sales. In 2015, the report of the Justice N.N. Singh Commission of Inquiry on the riots said it identified 85 cases of sale of houses under "distress or duress' and asked the state government to restore properties to original owners.

No action from the government

On March 20, 2020, a group of activists, academics, relief workers and volunteers under the umbrella organisation ‘Citizen Volunteers for North East Delhi" sent a memorandum to the Delhi government demanding "strict monitoring of sale or purchase of commercial and residential properties in the area" while the rebuilding takes place. "This is necessary to avoid distress sales and the incursion of the land mafia as has been witnessed in the aftermath of riots previously," the memorandum said. "This will prevent a plunge in property prices. Transfer of titles should be strictly monitored during this time period.

Without gates we feel scared.

A member from the group (who did not want to be named) says, "We met chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy minister Manish Sisodia in the first week of March when they verbally promised that they will look into the recommendations. However, we received no response after the memorandum was sent." He adds, "Until now, no policy has been initiated by Delhi government apart from disbursing minimum compensation."

In Shiv Vihar's Gali no. 13, there is another new feature: iron gates. Two gates were installed in one section of the lane close to the Hanuman temple, roughly demarcating the old Hindu-dominated areas.

Local residents say the gates were built at the initiative of Hindu families, but with contributions from both Hindu and Muslim families – some of whom said they had no choice but to pay towards their construction. "They would decide when to open or close the gate," said Zubaida Begum.

Mohammed Ameel, the property agent, says the gates were put up after Muslims families had left as a result of the riots. He thinks that the reason for doing so is that the Hindu families were scared that the Muslim families would come back and ask questions about what they had seen on the days of the riot.

"Gates are our safety. Without gates we feel scared," said Goswami, a Hindu resident of the lane.

For Begum, who had to pay Rs 1,000 as a contribution towards the gates (a sizable sum, given her monthly rent is Rs 6,000), the gates were another reason to move out. "I would get scared when the gates were kept closed during the pandemic," she said. "The gali and the gates haunt me."

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Zhang Wenyang

Why Chinese Are Choosing Europe To Invest In Real Estate

BEIJINGYang Ke works for a high-tech company in Shenzhen on the southeast coast of China. Thanks to a few years spent abroad, he has saved up a considerable amount of money and is looking to invest it in foreign real estate. After intensive discussions with real estate agents, he decided that property in America is too pricey, and settled on Europe as the best option.

There is a rising affluent class in China who are making a similar choice as Yang — their savings are not sufficient for buying China's astronomically expensive properties in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. Meanwhile, keeping the money sitting in a bank account is also a bad deal. So ... Europe.

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Giacomo Tognini

Algeria Cocaine Bust Reveals New Global Hub In Narcotics Network

Authorities seized 701 kilograms of cocaine on a ship in the port of Oran. The record haul points to a growing network linking South America to Europe via Algeria.

ORAN — On May 29th, Algerian authorities discovered 701 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a meat container on a merchant ship in the port of Oran. The bust was one of the largest operations in Algerian history, leading to a police investigation that has identified Kamel Chikhi, an influential Algiers real estate mogul, as the ringleader of a drug trafficking network that distributes cocaine from Brazil to Spain by way of the ports on Algeria"s long Mediterranean coastline.

According to Algiers-based daily El Watan, drug traffickers in Algeria have a long history of using their political connections to evade arrest and expand their operations. Several powerful criminals — including Ahmed Yousfi Saïd "the emigrant" and Ahmed Zendjabil, aka "the Pablo Escobar of Oran" — dominated the drug trade in the 1990s and 2000s, acting with impunity thanks to their notable ties to the country's political elites.

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