Arab sheikh denies alleged “debt”

A Portuguese popular daily newspaper has alleged that Sheikh Mohamed Bin Isser Al Jaber, owner of many prestigious Algarve investments, has serious financial problems and owes money to a building contractor. Lawyers for Mr. Al Jaber have angrily denied both allegations and say they will be filing a criminal lawsuit against the paper concerned.

Correio da Manhã cited Constrorepara, the Algarve building contractor firm responsible for the construction of the five-star Hotel Meridien Royal Algarve in Quinta do Lago, which alleges that the Saudi millionaire had failed to honour payments. Works on the hotel were stalled in January this year, two years after it first began. An unnamed source was quoted as saying that the company belonging to Sheikh Al Jaber, “owes more than eight million euros”. The newspaper also quoted the same source as claiming that the Saudi millionaire’s company “will have a debt of around 20 million euros at the BCP bank in Faro and at BPN (Banco Português de Negócios)”, as a result of stalled work on the hotel. The paper indicated that Constrorepara has presented a judicial complaint against the Pinheiros Altos group to Loulé court, seeking seizure of some of its assets. The first preliminary hearing is due to take place on September 15. Speaking to The Resident, Pinheiros Altos’ lawyer, José Henriques Da Silva, categorically denied that Constrorepara was owed any money. “It’s completely untrue. We at Pinheiros Altos terminated the contract because Constrorepara failed to fulfil the terms of their contract. We had agreed about certain points beforehand, but they failed to comply with them. So they did not terminate their contract because we did not fulfil our side of things – it was the other way around.” Da Silva also denied that his client was in debt to the tune of 20 million euros at the bank. “It is completely false – there is nothing true about it at all. We have loans from the bank but they are pre-arranged. We are complying with our obligations and meeting interest payments.”

Da Silva also said that Pinheiros Altos is currently looking for a new contractor and that work on the hotel would begin again in November at the latest. He confirmed that Constrorepara was taking its case to the courts, but he said that Pinheiros Altos was preparing to refute the contractor’s charges.

Sheikh Al Jaber started to invest in Portuguese tourism at the end of the 90s, concentrating on golf. In the summer of 2002 the sheikh organised a lavish, champagne-filled party for the jet set at Pinheiros Altos in Quinta do Lago. The tycoon apparently spent more than two million euros on paying for accommodation, flights and entertainment. At the time he said he “wanted to invest heavily in Portugal, because it is a country with enormous touristic potential”.