- For days the headline in US and even world news has been
whether or not a fanatic Christian preacher from a tiny Florida church
will or will not burn the Moslem Koran in protest to the announced plans
to build a mosque 400 meters from the site of the World Trade Twin Towers.
Conveniently, the drama was focused on the 9th anniversary of the collapse
of three (not two as widely believed) towers on September 11, 2001. Now
details about the real estate group that is allegedly ready to invest $100
million in the mosque construction suggest that the entire drama is being
deliberately orchestrated. The question is by whom to what ends?
- In a move to maintain high drama, on September 10, bombastic
New York real estate wheeler-dealer Donald Trump made public his offer
to buy out the prime owner of the proposed Islamic Center for "patriotic"
reasons. The deal was reportedly rejected categorically by Hisham Elzanaty,
an Egyptian-born businessman who says he provided a majority of the financing
for the two buildings where the center would be built. Here is where it
begins to become interesting.
- It turns out according to investigations by various New
York newspapers that the property is registered not in the name of Elzanaty,
but of an entity called Soho Properties, a real estate company at 552 Broadway,
New York, New York. According to their website Soho Properties was founded
by Sharif El-Gamal in 2003. The website describes their activities: "We
are a company focused on pursuing the real value in real estate investments,
especially when pricing dislocations create value-driven opportunities.
Soho Properties unlocks the value in an investment by successfully executing
various strategies, which include re-tenanting/repositioning assets, renovations,
aggregations, developments and participating in unique opportunistic situations."
- Who is Sharif El-Gamal then? It seems, according to various
New York police records and the research of a Florida private detective
on behalf of clients who claim to have been defrauded by the El-Gamal group,
that Sharif El-Gamal has a rather dubious background, for someone who is
the mogul of a $100 million real estate deal. Sharif is in a partnership
with his brother, Sammy El-Gamal, and Nour Mousa, nephew of Amr Moussa,
an Egyptian diplomat and the Secretary General of the Arab League.
- In November 2009, it was reported that the firm spent
$45.7 million to buy 31 West 27th Street in New York City, a 12-story 10,000
m2 office building. El-Gamal said: "We just bought it for the income.
It's got great long-term leases, and the financing was really attractive."
In a depressed New York real estate market, the El-Gamal brothers seem
not to be such shrewd businessmen. They reportedly bought it from the Witkoff
Group, which had bought the building in 2006 for $31.5 million, during
the book in New York real estate.
- Then in July 2009, Soho bought the 4751 Park Place
building on the site of the planned Cordoba House, now referred to as the
"Ground Zero Mosque" and "Park51", to allegedly build
a $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic cultural center and
mosque that is in the planning stage. Soho Properties paid the owner $4.85
million in cash for the property.
- Waiters into real estate tycoons
- The question being asked is where did the large sums
of money come from for the two El-Gamal brothers? It seems they are anything
but your typical New York millionaire real estate tycoons. Their backgrounds
suggest more apprentices in a new Godfather film as petty mobsters-in-training.
- According to an article in the New York Post, Hisham
Elzanaty, one of the money men behind the developer of the "Ground
Zero" mosque was sued for allegedly defrauding an insurance company
for nearly $1.8 million, according to court documents. Elzanaty, who reportedly
owns medical companies that operate out of a building in the Bronx, allegedly
billed State Farm Insurance for unnecessary tests related to automobile
accidents that would maximize the insurance payout, the court papers say.
Elzanaty, who was reportedly a "significant investor" in mosque
developer Sharif el-Gamal's $4.8 million mosque project, was also ordered
to repay $331,000 after an audit showed Medicaid had overpaid him.
- The El-Gamal brothers seem to be cut of a similar sleazy
cloth. According to Florida private investigator Bill Warner and to various
New York reports, there is an investigation ongoing into Sammy and Sharif
El-Gamal of the SOHO Properties by the New York State Dept of Licensing
in Manhattan for non-payment of apartment rental deposits to customers
that were supposed to be in escrow.
- Court records from Florida to New York State reveal that
Sharif and his younger brother, Samir "Sammy" El-Gamal, 35, a
partner with him in his company SoHo Properties, both have a history of
numerous tax and debt issues, dating from at least 1994 to the present.
In one case, a NY Police officer arrested Sharif in 1994 for "promoting
prostitution." He pleaded guilty to a mis-demeanor of disorderly conduct.
In another instance, Sharif told a court he didn't hit a tenant from whom
his brother and he were trying to collect back rent. He said to police,
the tenant's "face could have run into my hand."
- The brothers' background does not suggest billionaire
real estate project preparation. Sharif waited tables at the restaurant
Serafina, while Sammy waited tables at Tao. Then Sharif worked as a waiter
at Michael Jordan's, named after basketball star. But he, ostensibly a
devout muslim, was fired for arriving reeking of alcohol, among other things.
This is around when Sharif started acquiring a criminal record, say people
familiar with his career.
- The geopolitical manipulation
- The entire '911' Mosque controversy has been made into
world news by CNN and other select media. The US head of the military command
in Afghanistan, General Petraeus got into the fray with a plea to the Florida
pastor not to burn Korans, a move which naturally led several other wanna-be
preacher bigots to say they too planned to burn Korans on the ninth anniversary
of the World Trade Center event. The President, Barack Obama, got into
the act by praising the building of the mosque as a symbol of Americans'
religious freedom and tolerance.
- At the end of the day it all fuelled a "Clash of
Civilization" tension across America, and had the convenient effect,
whether the mosque is built on the site or not, of reinforcing the US Government
version of the collapse of the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001,
namely that the destruction was carried out by two commercial hijacked
jets being deftly rerouted into the two towers. And that the Boeing jets
had been allegedly hijacked by 19 Arab students, armed only with paper
box cutters, who had just been trained at a Florida flight school to fly
small Cessna-size private planes. By keeping alive the myth of the "Second
Pearl Harbor," as George W. Bush once called 911, perhaps some people
such as Barack Obama or General Petraeus hope to keep attention on the
need for US military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even spreading
the war beyond Afghanistan.
- One interesting question in the entire business is who
put up millions of dollars for the sleazy El-Gamal brothers' Soho Properties
to pay $5 million cash for the property and to buy the other property for
$46 million? Did the very established Witkoff Group, whose head, Steven
Witkoff was selected as "Man of the Year" by The Jeffrey Modell
Foundation in 1998, and who do major deals from London to New York not
do a due diligence research on their new potential clients? Or is this
all play money games using intelligence agency or other fake companies
to create the explosive scenario at the anniversary of 911? These are some
of the interesting questions to ask.
- Soho Properties, accessed in HYPERLINK "http://www.sohoproperties.com/pdfs/SP3rdQ08Newsletter.pdf"
- Dana Rubenstein, SoHo Properties Buys Chelsea Building
for $45.7 M., The New York Observer Real Estate, November 9, 2009, accessed
in HYPERLINK "http://www.observer.com/2009/real-estate/witkoff-sells-chelsea-building-457-m"
- Tom Liddy, Ripoff Mosque Man Sued, New York Post, September
- Asra Q. Nomani , Rift Imperils Ground Zero Mosque, August
30, 2010, Yahoo News, accessed in HYPERLINK "http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/9670_sharifelgamalandthegroundzeromosque"