Meet the man who spent $9 million on a licence plate

A Dubai property developer Balwinder Sahni has spent $9 million on a highly coveted plate bearing the number 5.

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Explaining why he bought the plate, Sahni said he sees the hefty licence plate purchases as his contribution to the public coffers since Dubai has no income tax. The property developer said he believes the money will go to charity and towards improving the city’s infrastructure. “I believe in giving back,” he said. “This city has given me a lot.”

“I always like to give myself a gift every year,” the billionaire futher told CNN Money. “When you work very hard, you need to present yourself with something,” he added.

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This is not the first time Sahni has spent serious money on a licence plate. He secured a number 9 plate with a winning bid of $6.7 million at a government auction last year. His number plate has also given him a lot of attention. The billionaire said he can’t go out in public without people stopping him and asking to take a photo. Many accuse him of wasting his money, but he describes himself as “a simple man.”

“It’s hard, people giving comments without knowing the type of person I am,” Sahni told CNN Money.

Sahni bid $9 million for the number plates at a government auction earlier this month that now adorn two of his six Rolls Royce cars. He also has two more of the luxury vehicles on order. It was one of the largest sums ever spent on a licence plate, although still lower than the $14 million record set in 2008 by an Abu Dhabi businessman.

The auction is held every year, but Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has declined to comment on how the proceeds from the licence plate auctions are spent. Bids can start in millions of dirhams. Private companies in the UAE are also trying to cash in on the licence plate business. A secondary market where the more sought-after plates are traded has sprung up.

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Abdulkerim Arsanov and his brother set up a website, numbers.ae, to link sellers with buyers. The biggest deal through their website so far was for a two-digit plate that sold for $735,000. “Number plates have become more luxurious than the cars themselves,” Arsanov said.

The brothers started their business two years ago after struggling to find ways to sell their own collection of unique plates. Their website isn’t making them any money yet, but Arsanov hopes to expand it into markets beyond the UAE, like the UK and Russia. They plan to start charging for the services at a later stage.

The site usually gets 500 to 800 visitors a day. but the auction where Sahni bid $9 million set off a wave of new interest. More than 8,000 views caused the site to crash and forced the brothers to upgrade their server.

This article originally appeared on CNN.