High-profile Islamic finance firm Dar Al Istithmar closes

LONDON Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:42am EST

LONDON Jan 29 (Reuters) - One of the most high-profile advisory firms in Islamic finance, Dar Al Istithmar, which advised Goldman Sachs on a controversial $2 billion sukuk programme, has closed down with most of its staff moving to another company, sources told Reuters.

Dar, which had offices in London and Dubai, was set up in 2004 as a joint venture between Deutsche Bank, which subsequently pulled out, and financial firms Russell Wood Ltd and Oxford Islamic Finance Ltd.

It has now been shut after most of its personnel moved to Khalij Islamic, another investment and advisory firm with offices in London and Dubai, said the sources, who are familiar with the matter.

Officials at companies involved declined to speak publicly and it was not clear why Dar had closed down.

Dar's former chief executive, Geert Bossuyt, who previously worked at Deutsche Bank, now holds the same position at Khalij, while former Dar managing director Asim Khan has also moved to Khalij, according to the Khalij website.

The sharia board of Khalij lists former sharia scholars at Dar, Hussain Hamed Hassan, Ali Al Qaradaghi and Aznan Hassan, who are some of the world's most sought-after scholars. Sharia boards rule on whether companies' products and activities comply with Islamic principles.

Dar did not make a public announcement on its closure, but its website is now out of service and a telephone number listed for it by the Dubai International Financial Centre website is incorrect. The website lists Dar as inactive with its Dubai Financial Services Authority licence revoked.

One of Dar's most prominent clients was Goldman, whose plan to become one of the first Western banks to raise money through Islamic bonds, announced in October 2011, ignited a controversy in the Islamic finance community over whether the sukuk structure was valid and how the money would be used.

Goldman has said the sukuk met all necessary standards but publicly at least, the bank has not proceeded with the plan.

Some clients of Dar have also moved to Khalij with the management team, one source told Reuters.

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