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Sun story mischaracterizes Karzai dispute

I represent Mahmood Karzai, and I'm writing about a September 28, 2010, Baltimore Sun article, "Karzai brother reportedly is targeted in U.S. probe." In that article, The Sun discussed Mr. Karzai's Maryland home, investment properties and several previous restaurants in the Baltimore area.

According to the article, a local real estate broker, Kemp Byrnes, sued Mr. Karzai claiming he "reneged on a deal to sell two parcels in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood as planned." Mr. Byrnes was then quoted about how "disappointed" he was.

It's a shame that with a pending arbitration approaching, The Sun would present only Mr. Brynes' biased and wrong version of the events. No reporter called Mr. Karzai for a comment. Mr. Byrnes was instead been allowed to mangle and distort the record.

Here are the facts: Mr. Byrnes and his wife were personal friends with Mr. Karzai and his wife. It was Mr. Byrnes who originally sold one of the buildings in question to Mr. Karzai. And it was Mr. Byrnes who pestered Mr. Karzai for months to list the property for sale. My client was absolutely clear he did not want a sale resulting in capital gains. As a result, the two agreed in writing that any deal would only be a 1031 exchange, one in which Mr. Byrnes found a buyer for Mr. Karzai's property and at the same time found a like-kind property in which Mr. Karzai could invest the proceeds.

Mr. Byrnes then talked to a tenant in the building, who had a right of first refusal on the property, and returned to Mr. Karzai with an offer. Mr. Karzai declined that offer.

That resulted in Mr. Byrnes suing.

The real estate market is tough across the nation. But there's no basis for a broker to be paid a commission on a property he didn't sell. Although the broker may believe he returned with a good offer, it's always up to the seller as to whether he wants to sell or not. No one can force a seller to give up his property, no matter how much a real estate broker might like to collect his fee.

This lawsuit is frivolous. I have little doubt the arbitrator will see it as the desperate move it is. But Sun readers should not be left with only one side of this unnecessary dispute.

Gerald Posner, New York

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