TEL AVIV (Feb. 13)
Adnan Khashoggi, a shadowy figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, may be involved in a deal to buy the Avia Sonesta Hotel in Taba.
The multimillionaire Saudi Arabian arms dealer and businessman reportedly has linked up with British press baron Tiny Rowlands to work out a deal with the hotel’s principal owner, Eli Papushado.
Papushado is negotiating with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism for sale of the hotel. Egypt is considered likely to allow the Israelis to continue to run it after Taba reverts to Egyptian sovereignty, probably next month.
But the gap between Papushado’s $70 million asking price and the $25 to $30 million offered by the head of the Egyptian negotiating team, Minister of Tourism Fuad Sultan, has yet to be narrowed.
On Monday, Papushado was back in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, to continue the talks that have been under way for the past week.
According to media reports, he was present at a meeting Sunday night at the Tel Aviv home of Israeli entrepreneur Ya’acov Nimrodi.
It was attended by representatives of Rowlands, who owns the London Sunday Observer and the Lonro Group.
He and Khashoggi are said to have offered $50 million for the Sonesta, which they plan to develop into a resort and gambling casino.
Khashoggi’s role in the sale of American arms to Iran remains obscure. He has been described as a middleman and financier who deposited proceeds from the sale into a Swiss bank account.
Israeli media reports said the Sonesta corporation, of which Papushado is the main shareholder, is skeptical of the Rowlands deal.
Nimrodi was quoted by the media as saying he was not involved in the deal, but only “mediating” it.
The negotiations include the Rafi Nelson Vacation Village at Taba, a less opulent resort than the Sonesta.
Lior Nelson, son of the late Rafi Nelson who built, owned and managed the property, is asking $3.5 million. The Egyptians say they value it at $100,000.
Whatever price is agreed on for the two resorts will probably be based on the value fixed by an independent firm of American property appraisers, and will be guaranteed by an American bank.
Cairo, meanwhile, in an unexpected move, is demanding $5 million from Israel for use of the Taba enclave since it was captured by the Israel Defense Force along with the rest of Sinai in June 1967.
The Israelis promptly rejected the demand, but the Egyptians say such payment is provided for by the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the Camp David agreements.
Israeli negotiators said Camp David called only for talks to discuss the various claims and counterclaims of both sides, but such talks were never held.