Beware of the Property-Seeking President!

Here's an important lesson to keep in mind: If the corrupt president of an impoverished African nation comes along and tells you he's going to pay you $27 million to buy a piece of land you own in Midtown, do not take him at his word. Stay skeptical, at least until you have the money in hand. Dictators, you see, tend to operate by their own set of rules; just they signed a silly piece of paper called a "contract" doesn't mean they can't change their minds later on. They can do what they want. That's one of the perks to being an autocrat!

This is a lesson that the owners of plot of land on East 44th Street learned recently. They spent a couple of months negotiating a deal to sell the parcel to the Republic of Senegal for $27 million, and received repeated assurances from the nation's president, Abdoulaye Wade, that the money was on the way. But no money ever arrived and now the owners of the plot have filed a lawsuit against the African nation.

Beware of the Property-Seeking President!

Of course if they'd been paying closer attention to the local news in Senegal, they may have been able to see this coming. Back in September, right around the same time the lawsuit alleges President Wade started backing away from the purchase, he was putting the finishing touches on a 328-foot-high bronze statue in the capital city of Dakar (left), one which Wade boasted would stand 13 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. The cost for totally unnecessary and highly controversial project: $27 million! Sometimes the dictator of a poverty-stricken country has to choose between blowing the money he should be using to feed his people on a self-serving statue or blowing it on a piece of real estate 5,000 miles away. You can't always have both, clearly.