The strange, years-long tale of a luxe Chelsea apartment sold at a steep discount as a result of a foreign financial scandal may have finally come to a close.
This month, state judge Hon. Paul Goetz dismissed the final bid of the condo board at Manhattan’s 212 W. 18th St. — better known as Walker Tower — to evict Morgan Stanley wealth manager Ron Vinder from the penthouse unit he bought for $18.3 million in 2020.
The apartment atop the 22-story Art Deco condominium sold to Vinder only after its previous owner, Middle Eastern businessman Khadem al-Qubaisi, was sentenced to prison in the United Arab Emirates, Crain’s reported. Al-Qubaisi, who paid close to $51 million for the flat in 2015, was involved in an economic scandal involving the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB.
As a result, the Department of Justice seized the penthouse in 2016 as part of a larger money-recovering settlement. The government then sold the unit to Vinder for a bargain price, against the condo’s board bylaws and best interests, according to the group — which claims to have right of first refusal on all property purchases.
The condo board alleges that it was illegal for the government sell the unit directly to the buyer. The proper process would have had the condo board buy the penthouse from the government, then relist it at a far higher price. What went down was not only against its rules but risked significantly devaluing the building’s other units, it claimed.
A federal judge subsequently dismissed the board’s claims, but the group refiled them in Manhattan state Supreme Court last July, only to lose again this month.
Not only did the refiling fail to include the government as a defendant, Goetz noted in his dismissal of the case, but the board can’t “relitigate the issue” simply because it was “dissatisfied” with the last ruling, according to Crain’s. Vinder thus may continue living in the unit and was awarded costs and attorney fees.