Dubai Unlocked: Meet the luxury apartment owner CEE oligarchs and criminals

Illustration: James O'Brien/OCCRP 2024-05-21
Illustration: James O'Brien/OCCRP 2024-05-21

The “Dubai Unlocked” investigation, recently published by a coalition of international journalists, has shed light on the intricate web of financial secrecy and opulent lifestyles in Dubai. This extensive probe revealed how the emirate has become a haven for both the world’s elite and its underworld to stash their wealth, often evading taxes and laundering money.

The investigation uncovered numerous high-profile individuals, including politicians, celebrities, and business magnates, who have used Dubai’s lenient financial regulations to hide assets worth billions. The revelations have sparked global discussions about the need for stricter financial oversight and the ethical implications of such clandestine financial practices.

“Dubai Unlocked” is based on leaked datasets that provide a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage, largely from 2020 and 2022.

The data was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that researches international crime and conflict. It was then shared with Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated an investigative project with journalists from around the world. The Dubai Unlocked collaboration includes 74 media outlets in 58 countries.



VSquare member centers found multiple interesting Dubai property owners in all four Visegrád countries. Here is a summary of their findings.


The Investigative Center of Ján Kuciak (ICJK.sk) found confirmation that several Slovak oligarchs and politicians own assets worth millions of dollars in the emirate. This includes huge luxury apartment of oligarch Miroslav Výboh – which is located on the well-known artificial archipelago Palm Jumeirah, just a few hundred metres from the residence that another well-known Slovak oligarch, Norbert Bödör, rented in Dubai in 2018 to gain permanent residency in Dubai.

Oligarch Miroslav Výboh is Prime Minister Robert Fico’s friend, who has been under indictment for corruption in Slovakia since 2021. However, he has been avoiding Slovak justice by staying in the United Arab Emirates. His Dubai apartment has three bedrooms, a large living room, several separate bathrooms as well as other rooms. In total, its size is more than 681 square meters. 

ICJK also found proof that his son, Matúš Výboh, lives luxuriously in Dubai. After his father was charged with soliciting a bribe for Peter Pellegrini – now a Slovak president-elect – the family business was transferred from father to son. Matúš Výboh claims that he bought the shares of the MiddleCap Group from his father for the market price. The group operates in Slovakia, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Germany, and the Czech Republic. The ownership structure however also leads to Dubai, UAE-based Alnair Global DMCC owns the whole group.

In the past, Matúš Výboh made good profit on owning and selling of a luxurious villa on an island off the coast of Dubai. Former Minister of Finance (2006-10) and Minister of Transport (2012-16) in Fico’s governments Ján Počiatek also has a lease on the same island. He rents a three-bedroom apartment from his wife, Ivana, for 650,000 dirhams (about 160,000 euros) in a complex by the Italian brand BVLGARI. Ivana bought it a few years ago for more than 5 million euros.

Dubai Land Authority data also lists another prosecuted oligarch, Norbert Bödör, as the owner of a property. Although Bödör is listed as the owner, this may also mean that he is only renting in the emirate. In 2018, about a month after the Slovak National Crime Agency (NAKA) arrested Slovak businessman Marian Kočner in June, Bödör arranged his permanent residence in Dubai. According to the lease agreement, Bödör had rented a luxury apartment with an area of more than 160 square meters for a year, from August 2018, for an annual rent of 180,000 dirhams (approximately 44,000 euros).

In July 2020, Bödör was taken into the pre-trial detention because of the charges of money laundering in the multi-million corruption case connected to the european agricultural subsidies codenamed “Dobytkár” (Cattle Farmer). In January 2022, he was released from the detention, and the next month he was photographed in Dubai, vacationing with his co-defendant in other cases, Tibor Gašpar – the Slovak ex-president of the Police force and nowadays an MP for Smer. 

Gašpar, Bödör and even Výboh have not yet heard any sentence from the courts in the many cases connected with corruption, money laundering and organized crime in which they are charged. They would all, howver, benefit from the eform of the Criminal Code passed by the current Fico government earlier this week. In case of Miroslav Výboh, statutes of limitations would apply and his case would be forgotten forever. The effectiveness of the reform was for now suspended by the country’s Constitutional Court, it is unclear how long will it take for this court to decide on the matter.

Výboh, Počiatek and Bödör are still not the only interesting Slovak names in the leaked Dubai dataset. You can read about the rest on ICJK.sk (in Slovak).


According to leaked information from Dubai’s land registry, several Czech businessmen own property in the Emirate, such as casino chain owner Antonín Šimek or Jan Vinš, who was sentenced for funneling money from an investment fund. The sentence is not in effect. Besides them, investigace.cz also found information about the apartments of Prague businessmen Ivo Rittig and Jan Kočka. They owned apartments on the artificially built, tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah island.

Palm Jumeirah. Foto: Ole Martin Wold

Businessman Jan Kočka, whose family is known for organizing the Matějská Pouť Funfair in Prague, has been charged with tax evasion, violent crime and extortion. Kočka was alleged to have extorted another businessman at gunpoint. A Czech court eventually found him guilty in October 2023 and gave him a suspended prison sentence of two and a half years. The verdict is not in effect.

Kočka is also accused of alleged tax fraud through several companies, including the cleaning company Prostor. According to the prosecution, these companies billed for non-existent cleaning and advertising services. This trial is still ongoing and Kočka faces up to ten years in prison. In 2022, he was removed from the board of directors of Prostor and replaced by his wife Kateřina Faberová. According to the Dubai Register of Property Owners, as of May 13, 2024, both Jan Kočka and his wife Faberová are owners of real estate there.

The aforementioned Jan Kočka is friends with Czech businessman Ivo Rittig. In a photo from 2019 posted by Kočka on his Instagram account, the two friends are pictured feasting at a Dubai Luxury steakhouse. The Dubai properties of the two businessmen, who also became interested in MMA and Octagon fights in recent years, are located not far from each other on the Palm Jumeirah island.

Businessman Ivo Rittig is well known for several scandals. Authorities have investigated him over suspicions of public procurement machinations. Rittig’s name appeared in an investigation into the Prague Transport Company (DPP) or in the case of Oleo Chemical, which was supposed to supply DPP with overpriced biodiesel fuel. He was acquitted in all of these cases.

According to Dubai’s real estate registry, Rittig and his wife own one apartment as of May 13, 2024. The leaked documents available to investigace.cz show that, in May 2011 the couple bought an apartment in Palm Jumeirah, in the Adriatic residence, for CZK 16.1 million (over €664 000). The second apartment, bought in July 2011 for CZK 12.8 million (around €525 000) in Palm Jumeirah Baltic, was sold in 2023 for CZK 21.7 million (around €912 000). A similar property in the same location now costs approximately CZK 35 million (over €1 414 000).

Czech businessman Antonín Šimek operates casinos under the name Happy Day. His companies owe a total of CZK 70 million (around €2 829 000), almost half of which to the state. His family’s trust funds own more than 30 plots of land in Central Bohemia. He himself is the owner of one apartment in Dubai, from the rent of which he has already earned over CZK 4.5 million (around €182 000).

The company Gold Happy Day, which Šimek owns with his son Matěj, has declared bankruptcy last year. The joint stock company has been losing money for most of its existence. According to Czech law, the shareholders of a bankrupt company are not responsible for paying the company’s debt unless it can be proven they have run it to the ground knowingly. 

In May 2013, the Czech National Bank came to inspect Metropolitní spořitelní družstvo (then one of the largest Czech financial depositories). It found that the cooperative had “serious deficiencies in its business”. Later investigations showed that over CZK 1.2 billion (around €50 million) had been siphoned off from the cooperative through loans taken out by companies run by strawmen. The money was transferred to accounts in Hong Kong and then went to Dubai or the Czech Republic. To this day, it is not known where the hundreds of millions of crowns (or millions of euros) ended up.

Most of the people involved in the fraud have already been convicted. Jan Vinš, a businessman who bought a small apartment in the Royal Oceanic Tower just a few weeks before the CNB inspection, is still waiting for a final verdict. He has been renting the apartment since 2017. According to the verdict, he was supposed to recruit people. His company’s account was also used to funnel money to Hong Kong. But he denies his guilt. “If I ever did anything, it was helping to launder the dirty money because I didn’t keep an eye on it, but I organized nothing,” he told investigace.cz. He said he did not know that money was flowing through his company’s account to Hong Kong because he gave access to the account to an economist recommended by Vinš’s friend, Czech businessman Aziz Al-Nasser. He alleges he handed over access to the account because it was to be used for a joint contract. Al-Nasser, who was also convicted in the case for money landering, bought an apartment in Dubai in the same building as Vinš. But he sold it in 2014.

These are just a few examples of Investigace.cz’s findings–read more about the Czech owners of Dubai apartments here (in Czech).


Direkt36 has revealed that a company linked to the inner circle of Ádám Matolcsy, son of central bank governor György Matolcsy, has bought several properties in Dubai, including a 286-square-meter, 3-bedroom luxury apartment on the ninth floor of One at Palm Jumeirah.

The apartment, which also has two terraces and balconies totaling 50 square meters, was bought for more than one billion forints (2.6 million euros) by a company called Future Holding Limited, which, according to a leaked database, is linked to Ádám Matolcsy. The company’s contact details include email addresses linked to a company founded by Matolcsy, his former wife, and an old acquaintance.

Dubai skyline. Foto: Ole Martin Wold

Future Holding has also bought three other properties in Dubai, according to the leaked data. One of these properties has the email address of an old friend of Ádám Matolcsy as a contact, while the other two do not have any contact details at all. Three of the four properties have been sold in the meantime, including the One at Palm Jumeirah apartment, which was sold on for a substantial profit.

As reported by Direkt36 and several other Hungarian news outlets in recent years, Ádám Matolcsy and his acquaintances have made a considerable fortune in recent years thanks to state and other government-related deals. Even among pro-government figures known for their luxurious lifestyle, they have distinguished themselves with their lavish spending on expensive sports cars and travels.

Ádám Matolcsy owes much of his business success to the Hungarian National Bank, which his father runs, the family-owned NHB bank, and various state institutions. Read more on Direkt36.hu (in English and Hungarian).


Piotr Obarzanek, a Polish man suspected of leading a criminal gang and fugutive on a wanted list for seven years, quietly conducts business in the capital of the United Arab Emirates , where he bought a 200 square-meters apartement, Frontstory.pl has uncovered as part of the Dubai Unlocked investigation.

When the Polish prosecutor’s office in 2017 tried to push charges against Obarzanek, it turned out that the man was not even in Poland. Frontstory.pl found him in the Middle East, discovering that, in 2018, he bought an apartment in Dubai, in the heart of one of the city’s prestigious districts (he owned the real estate until at least October 2023). The Polish arrest warrant doesn’t bother him, he lives like a king: he drives luxury cars, trains martial arts, and meets international sports and music stars at events. Officially, he runs a real estate company. 

Frontstory.pl has also established that the criminal gang, headed by Piotr Obarzanek, had installed slot machines – or so-called one-armed bandits – in public places. According to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, these slot machines were illegal, and the gang made money on them in violation of the country’s Gambling Act. 

Source: Polish police

If it were only about slot machines, Obarzanek and his buddies would face a fine or at most a three-year jail term. But the prosecutor’s office suspects him of founding and participating in an organized crime group  and for that, he faces up to 10 years in prison.  

The prosecutor’s office does not want to disclose by what amount Obarzanek’s group depleted the state budget. However, the scale of the procedure must have been large: as many as 73 people were active in the group, which operated for more than a year and a half. 

Piotr Obarzanek likes to surround himself with expensive goods and famous people. One t-shirt of the brand in which he likes to show off on Instagram costs from several hundreds to several thousands of Polish zlotys. The Rolls-Royce model he shows off with is worth more than 2.5 million zlotys (more than 0,5 million euros). 

Meanwhile, the Polish fugitive trains boxing in one of Dubai’s popular clubs. On Obarzanek’s profile on Instagram, we find selfies with martial arts legends, including Dana White, head of the world’s largest MMA federation, or the Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, a friend of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. There is also a photo with Steven Seagal, the former action movie star who later made headlines because of his support for Vladimir Putin.

Before he fled to Dubai, Obarzanek established several companies in Europe. Frontstory.pl found a couple in Poland, one in the UK, and one in Germany. Most of them no longer exist. Apart from Obarzanek’s involvement, what they have in common is that, for years, they did not file financial statements, and creditors and bailiffs could not collect on their debts, because the companies’ assets disappeared – along with the owner. More details can be found on Frontstory.pl (in Polish).

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