Property … a way for the “new rich” of the Houthis to launder money

The prices of real estate and land in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, have risen to exceed the prices of their counterparts in the countries of the region and even some European countries, and their rents have risen illogically, although virtually outside the control of the state, and is considered a war zone, lack of services, and it has gained nothing from urban and urban planning, which turns it into a city of slums.

And from time to time, pioneers spread on social media ads about property prices for sale, whether land or buildings, surprising and arrogant about the imaginary prices, exorbitant rents and complex conditions to obtain them, while the urban movement expands on the random ground and without considering the simplest conditions of urban planning.

A recent report confirms that the Houthi militia was active in the real estate sector in addition to other activities such as money laundering, money laundering obtained from the looting and treasury of state institutions, and seizure of the money and businesses of those opposed to it. . , which has caused the already high property prices to rise even more.

The report, “The War Economy and the New Rich”, recently released by the Center for Studies and Economic Media (a Yemeni organization), states that the hands of the powerful militias and their money launderers have spread to the real estate sector, and money laundering has led to the emergence of a new class that has great liquidity to build and buy property in amounts that exceed the realistic and usual figures.And the building process in Sanaa has created new neighborhoods and areas.

Militia leaders went to buy land and property buildings that were impossible for businessmen to dare to buy in times of state and peace; Due to its high cost, according to reports from the Central Statistical Organization for the year 2014; The total building permits in the capital, Sana’a, amounted to 34 permits during that period.

The number of building permits in 2017, according to the central apparatus in Sanaa, reached 358, and according to a source in the Ministry of Works in the Houthi coup government; The building and construction process in Sana’a has led to the creation of new neighborhoods and areas.

According to observers; Besides looting for enrichment; The militias seek to change the demographic structure by occupying the environment of the capital, housing its members and supporters of its project, and building communities with a sectarian and sectarian identity, after failing to succeed the community to force to support it.

The Houthi leader, Ahmed Hamid, oversees a body attached to the Office of the Presidency of the Council of State, known as the “Housing the Mujahideen”, and it works secretly to provide housing and real estate. to militia members serving from the governorships of Saada and Hajjah, and to purchase and build villas and buildings for the militia’s senior leaders and secure them in a human environment affiliated with it.

In this regard, Yemeni economic researcher Abdul Wahed Al-Aubali explains to Asharq Al-Awsat that the militias have obtained many sources of income, which is the reason for the accumulation of funds with them, and the fortunes of their leaders are rising at a record speed grew, and it was necessary to find ways to engage them in investment activities without arousing suspicion around them, especially with the desire to transfer them abroad for investment and benefit.

He goes on to say: “The real estate sector is one of the easiest sectors through which money can be laundered in Yemen, where the Houthi’s work to buy land and then sell it at many times their actual prices to ward off suspicion of the money. remove their property, and these activities are repeated several times between brokers with some of their followers.And the opponents of the Houthi group, property prices gradually double, and these prices can be described as exaggerated.

According to Al-Obali, much real estate was seized either from state property or from the property of businessmen, politicians and activists who had fled the militias’ oppression, and the militias had resorted to selling and trading it at prices that enabling them to smuggle and launder money, his affiliate business.

Al-Aubali has warned investors, businessmen and expatriates to buy real estate in the capital, Sana’a or Houthi-controlled areas, as this sector is vulnerable to collapse and prices in it will drop to their actual levels or less once the war stop or stability occurs though is relative, and development in the rest of the country, where This will lead to the migration of the population to areas with the most investment opportunities.

He pointed out that property prices in Sanaa were higher than their real value before the Houthi’s control, due to corruption and extreme centralization, as influential people buy or seize property, and then trade it through a long chain of realtors, leading to a doubling of their prices each time, emphasizing that the Houthi’s They came upon this situation, so they worked to exploit it and many times aggravated it over what it was in the past.

Regarding the impact of these practices on urban planning, Yemeni engineer Ahmed Al-Madhaji told Asharq Al-Awsat that the average population density in the city has increased excessively in recent years due to the seizure of real estate by the new influential people, and their arrival from the countryside and neighboring cities with their families, relatives and companions, in addition to the rewards the fighters received as a result of their participation in the war, through to their land and real estate in the vicinity of the city te gun.

Al-Madhaji warned against the absence of population density statistics, the number of buildings and the planning standard used, and that most construction work is carried out without licenses, with horizontal extension increasing randomness and making it difficult to provide multiple services. agricultural areas and groundwater, complicates the possibility of planning new suburbs in the future, and reduces opportunities The development of service and entertainment projects within the urban blocks.

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