Thomas Kramer's South Beach Story Ends With $200 Million Court Judgment

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When the 82-year-old Otto died after a series of strokes in 1997, his surviving daughters inherited their father's business and continued his lawsuit. Verena von Mitschke-Collande, the current owner of Giesecke & Devrient, and Claudia Miller-Otto, a philanthropist and abstract painter who lives in Key West, weren't willing to forgive such a colossal debt. (Both sisters declined to be interviewed for this story.)

On January 9, 2003, the Zurich High Court dismissed Kramer's appeal. To ensure that the Swiss judgment stuck, the heirs took their case to Miami. On April 13, 2007, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court decided the ruling was "an enforceable judgment of this State of Florida." The Otto sisters also targeted Kramer's London assets. A British judge froze $10 million of Kramer's property in 2007.

Despite losses on two continents, Kramer refused to give up. Within months of the Florida verdict, Kramer's lawyers petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to strike it down. In August 2009, the court denied Kramer's petition for review.

Finally, this past January, the legal drama reached its long-delayed climax when the Swiss Federal Tribunal ruled Kramer's final appeal was "without merit" and told him it was time to pay up. The Otto clan had at last prevailed against the man who'd taken their millions to Miami.

"It wasn't a matter of principle," said a source connected to the lawsuit, who requested anonymity because of ties to the Otto family. "It was definitely over the money. Two hundred million dollars isn't loose pocket change."

In the weeks after the news, Kramer's two decades of dizzying excess quickly evaporated as he scrambled to meet the Swiss judgment.

I spent February, the month before the teary meeting with his staff, covered in paper dust in a small side room with two shredders while helping Kramer eradicate 20 years of his life. Boxes of documents — party invitations from the 1990s, receipts for dinners from fancy restaurants, photographs of Portofino Tower — reached almost to the ceiling. I shredded so much that sanitation workers complained about having to haul it all away. Kramer would occasionally pop in. Humiliation welled up in his eyes as he watched his empire being slowly dismantled.

As the day of his departure to Pakistan drew closer, he became more depressed. The usual stream of gold diggers that flowed into the mansion now slowed to a trickle, though the occasional bimbo sheepishly clad in Kramer's custom-made shirts reading "Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go to 5 Star Island" would wander around the grounds. I genuinely feared that Kramer might harm himself. The death of his beloved father, Willi, in 2012 had forced him to confront his own mortality, and in the wake of the Swiss decision, he began to talk openly about taking his own life. I worried that one morning I might hear a shot coming from the walk-in safe upstairs where he stored his guns.

But Kramer soon announced he'd found one last chance to salvage his career: He was pinning all his hopes on Malik Riaz. The night before he left for Karachi, Pakistan, 200 friends gathered at his mansion to drink champagne and wish him bon voyage. "It's like being present at my own funeral," he told me.

The down-on-his-luck businessman had reason to be apprehensive. His plan reeked of desperation: Riaz, a notorious property tycoon, wanted to partner with him to build Safe Island City, which will supposedly boast the world's tallest building and the world's largest shopping center — all on the outskirts of Karachi, one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Kramer had met Riaz in Pakistan in 2010 through a mutual friend in Islamabad. The two struck up a relationship, and after a real estate company owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family backed out of a deal to finance Safe Island City in February, Riaz asked Kramer to come aboard. (Riaz didn't respond to requests from New Times through an intermediary for an interview.)

Riaz, who likes to portray himself as Sultana Daku — a Pakistani version of Robin Hood — has been publicly accused (though never convicted) of crimes ranging from forgery and extortion to kidnapping and murder. Last May, a fellow land developer named Dr. Shafiqur Rehman filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Pakistan charging that Riaz, with help from the police, had tried to frame him for the killing of one of Riaz's bodyguards in August 2008. He also claimed Riaz was responsible for the deaths of Lt. Gen. Imtiaz Hussain and Dr. Mansoor Janjua in a dispute over a land deal in Lahore. (Those claims, which Riaz has denied, are pending in court.)

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Lera Gavin

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