EXCLUSIVE: Deny, deny, deny! Property developer dad of Gigi and Bella Hadid insists he’s clear of any wrongdoing, claiming he ‘didn’t receive’ stop work orders on his illegally-built monster house as he FINALLY takes the stand
- Mohamed Hadid finally took the witness stand in Santa Monica on Thursday as his jury trial entered its second week
- Neighbors have sued Hadid over the $50 million spec house dubbed the Starship Enterprise, insisting he violated Los Angeles building and safety code
- The father of Gigi and Bella Hadid either denied any wrongdoing or claimed he couldn’t ‘recall’ when grilled by attorney Gary Lincenberg
- Hadid claimed he complied with ‘every order’ despite being prosecuted by the City of LA for ignoring ‘stop work’ orders on his illegally-built mansion in 2015
- The 72-year-old property developer was initially set to testify Monday but his testimony was postponed because he had to undergo oral surgery
- The tycoon later posted an Instagram photo of himself sitting in his dentist’s office in Beverly Hills
- The ongoing trial is the culmination of a years-long neighbor dispute over Hadid’s Bel Air mega-mansion that he once hoped to sell for $100million
Real estate tycoon Mohamed Hadid adopted what he hopes will be a winning strategy when he took the witness stand at his trial Thursday: deny everything.
The embattled property developer was finally grilled over his notorious, illegally-built Los Angeles mega-mansion at the center of a years-long dispute with his neighbors.
But when interrogated, Hadid either insisted he did not engage in any wrongdoing or claimed he could not ‘recall’ answers to many of the questions fired at him by Gary Lincenberg, the lead attorney for neighbors suing the 72-year-old.
‘Every order to comply was complied with,’ said Hadid – despite being criminally prosecuted in 2015 for not complying with LA Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) ‘stop work’ orders issued because of illegal construction at the giant hilltop house in upscale Bel Air.
Mohamed Hadid was seen arriving at the Santa Monica Courthouse alongside his attorney Jeff Reeves, before taking the stand at his trial on Thursday. The ongoing trial is the culmination of a years-long dispute with his Hadid’s neighbors over his illegally-built monster mansion in Bel Air
In 2019 a judge ordered Hadid’s mega-mansion to be torn down out of safety concerns, saying it was a nuisance and a danger to the public, but it is yet to be demolished
Speaking in a raspy voice, almost a whisper that was barely audible at times, the father of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid also denied trying to hide unpermitted work on the controversial project from LADBS inspectors.
He denied deliberately keeping emails and texts about the mansion construction from the neighbors’ attorneys.
He also denied – or said he couldn’t recall – being cited for unpermitted construction or renovation work on a half-dozen other Los Angeles building projects he was involved with.
Hadid – in his trademark black suit, black tie, white shirt and black shoes, with his shoulder-length hair neatly coiffed and wearing a black mask – was in the witness box for the first time as the trial entered its second week. It’s expected to last up to five.
He was initially set to testify Monday but his testimony was postponed after his attorney Jeff Reeves told Santa Monica Judge Craig Karlan Hadid had to undergo oral surgery.
To back up the reason for his delay taking the witness stand, the tycoon posted an Instagram photo of himself sitting in his dentist’s office in Beverly Hills.
Hadid’s neighbors, Joe and Bibi Horacek and John and Judy Bedrosian, launched a lawsuit against him after the 15,000-square feet house he was supposed to build, grew into a behemoth more than twice that size, towering over their nearby homes.
Hadid had a day off from court on Wednesday to recover from oral surgery. He later shared a photo of his visit to the dentist on Instagram
Taking the witness stand for the first time Thursday, Hadid either denied any wrongdoing or said he could not ‘recall’, when grilled by attorney Gary Lincenberg
Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father faces $60million in losses in the civil suit over his condemned Los Angeles mega-mansion
The neighbors claim that the past nine years of construction turned their lives into a nightmare and are now seeking cash damages to compensate for the ‘stress and anxiety, the constant fear and sleepless nights’ they have suffered.
Hadid is countersuing, accusing Horacek – founding member of a powerful LA law firm – of ‘shaking him down’ by trying to extort $3.5million from the real estate mogul in exchange for using his influence to make the developer’s problems with the City over his mansion project ‘go away.’
On Thursday, the real estate maverick made a reference to Horacek without naming him when he said he couldn’t recall a 2012 ‘order to comply’ from LADBS.
‘It’s ten years ago,’ he told the court. ‘But I do know we had a neighbor call the City almost on a daily basis (to complain about Hadid’s mansion construction).
Under questioning from Lincenberg, he also denied ordering a supervisor at his Strada Vecchia site to make sure a visiting city inspector didn’t see illegal construction work.
When asked if he’d told the same worker via text not to pour concrete while the inspector was there, he replied: ‘I don’t recall.’
Lincenberg asked Hadid about texts and emails concerning Strada Vecchia with various workers, contractors and others working on the project which weren’t handed over to the neighbors’ lawyers, ‘as you were legally obligated to do’ under rules of discovery.
‘I turned over whatever they asked for to my attorneys,’ replied Hadid who also re-affirmed a claim he made during a deposition – that some of his emails were lost when his computer was stolen, or were ‘deleted’ by AOL, his internet provider.
Hadid was seen outside a Santa Monica courthouse on Monday as the trial entered its second week
Neighbors are now seeking damages claiming the past nine years of construction of the mansion Hadid once hoped to sell for $100million turned their lives into a nightmare
Asked if he was cited by the City of LA for the illegal demolition of the house that stood where his Strada Vecchia project now sits, Hadid responded again: ‘I don’t recall.’
And when he was sent an order by the City to stop work on the unauthorized regrading – shifting tons of earth – of the hillside where he was building his giant new house, he said: ‘I did not receive it.’
Hadid’s Strada Vecchia neighbors have claimed they’re afraid his half-built ‘monstrosity’ is so unstable that it could slide down the hill and destroy their houses directly below.
Geologist Pat Shires told the court this week that Hadid’s property was the ‘worst site I’ve ever seen,’ thanks to illegal grading which resulted in dangerously steep slopes.
In the event of a serious rainfall, added Shires, the ‘slope instability could create a high likelihood of a debris flow hazard’ that would put the homes of the Horaceks and the Bedrosians – ‘at risk of property damage as well as serious injury or loss of life.’
He added that the instability of the site also made it vulnerable to earthquakes over 4.8 on the Richter Scale.
Despite the dangers posed by heavy rain or earthquakes, under cross examination by Hadid’s attorney, Bruce Rudman, Shires answered no when asked, ‘Is the house now in imminent risk of falling down the hill?’
Hadid puts most of the blame for his troubles on ‘nightmare neighbor’ Joe Horacek (pictured in front of his home with Hadid’s home in the background), who he says became ‘obsessed’ with the case
But he added: ‘There is an immediate risk because it’s not up to code (complying with local building regulations)’.
Hadid’s mega-mansion should have been torn down by now, thanks to a demolition order made almost two years ago by Judge Craig Karlan – the same judge overseeing the civil trial – who declared it a ‘clear and present danger’ to the community around it,’ mainly because the foundation piles supporting the hillside house don’t comply with building safety standards. It’s still standing because Hadid – once a multi-millionaire – claims he doesn’t have the $5 million it would cost to demolish it.
And a buyer who had offered $9million to purchase the building – and tear it down – recently backed out of the deal.
The neighbors’ lead attorney, Gary Lincenberg, has filed a motion in Judge Karlan’s court, blasting the City of LA for allowing Hadid to get away with building his giant, illegal house in the first place and demanding that the city tear it down immediately because of the threat it poses to the homes it overlooks.
That motion is still pending.
The neighbors, led by Horacek, 79 – a retired entertainment lawyer with the firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, whose clients have included movie star Michael Douglas and TV’s Dr. Phil – have been present in court throughout the trial, except for John Bedrosian who is in his 80s and is recovering from a broken hip.
Hadid declared last October that he’s broke – facing a whopping $60 million in losses over the headline-making mansion, half of that his own money and the other half loans.
Neighbors have been fighting for years for the demolition of the property because of all the alleged unapproved construction. The development of the home has also been an eyesore to nearby residents and now a danger due to heavy Los Angeles rain
Attorney Gary Lincenberg pointed out that according to expert opinion, piles supporting the house – which were not sunk deep enough into the hillside to comply with local building codes – ‘will fail in the event of a 24-year earthquake or a 10-20-year rain event’
He also claimed that he owes an additional $15million in court judgements against him, he’s had to ‘drastically downsize’ from a 48,000 square foot home to a more ‘modest’ one, he’s made no money from the caviar and champagne products that carry his name, and his famous daughters’ eyewear line – also using the Hadid brand – has gone belly up.
Attorney Gary Lincenberg, the neighbors’ lead attorney, filed a motion blasting the City of LA for allowing Hadid to get away with building his giant, illegal house
He has tried several legal moves to try to stop or delay the wrecking ball. First he filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming he ‘couldn’t afford’ the $5 million demo cost. That was dismissed.
Then he filed an appeal against Judge Karlan’s order to tear down the giant house. That too was denied. In May last year he launched a desperate bid to save his building project by asking California’s Supreme Court to send the case back to Judge Karlan’s court.
But the state’s highest court torpedoed his efforts, refusing even to hear the case. Then, in a last-ditch move, Hadid’s lawyers filed a second appeal – this time against Judge Karlan’s decision to appoint a receiver to oversee destruction of the house.
He lost that appeal as well. Hadid was prosecuted criminally by the City of LA in 2015 after he refused to comply with ‘stop work’ orders.
He pleaded no contest to three criminal charges involving illegal construction and in July 2017 he was told he would serve a 180-day jail sentence if he didn’t reduce the size of the house and bring it into compliance with city building codes – or demolish it – within the three years of probation the judge also imposed.
In addition, he was fined $3,000, ordered to pay $14,191 in fees to LA city, and serve 200 hours of community service.
A few months after Hadid’s criminal convictions and sentences, his neighbors – unhappy with what they saw as a slap on the wrist from the criminal court – filed the civil lawsuit against him that’s finally in court now.
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