Dubai, Refuge for Oligarchs and Kleptocrats
Photo illustration by Ryan Ho

Dubai, Refuge for Oligarchs and Kleptocrats

Dubai booms in times of trouble. The cast of plutocrats setting up there to live their best life away from prying eyes is unbelievable.

Georgia Gee

By Georgia Gee, Soobin Kim and Bradley Hope

The city-state of Dubai booms in times of trouble. India's plutocrats have used its real estate as a hedge against political change and pesky tax authorities. During the Arab Spring, the rich and powerful set up in its glass towers to avoid the roiling streets of Cairo, Tunis and even nearby Manama.

It's a place for a second try in life, with little ties, no matter what criminal issues you leave in your rear-window back in Europe or the US (The story of Derek Khan is a favorite).

Lately, there has been an influx of Russians like never before in the history of the United Arab Emirates. Almost all of them are well-heeled, but can't live the life of luxury and pleasure they previously had in London or Paris.

But for the cream of the crop – the truly wealthy, the ones with targets on their backs – there's only one place safe enough: Jumeirah Bay Island.

The 6.3 million square-feet, seahorse-shaped, man-made island has the highest density of billionaires per single street in the United Arab Emirates, despite having only 128 plots.

To lure deep-pocketed clients addicted to luxury, the hospitality megachain Marriott International licensed Bulgari in 2011 for an undisclosed amount and opened Bulgari Resort Dubai – the largest of seven worldwide – on Jumeirah Bay Island.

The list of guests and permanent residents is ... interesting.

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