EXCLUSIVE: Dubai firm denies role in Getafe swindle

Royal Emirates says has not defaulted on football club investment, plans to kick-off season as normal
Dubai’s Royal Emirates, which is headed by Sheikh Butti Bin Suhail Al Maktoum, agreed last year to buy the Madrid-based La Liga football club.
By Shane McGinley
Thu 28 Jun 2012 11:43 AM

Dubai-based Royal Emirates, which is chaired by a member of the ruling Al Maktoum family and last year paid around US$100m to buy Spanish football club Getafe, has denied any knowledge or involvement in an alleged scheme to defraud the club and has denied media reports it has defaulted on its investment, a senior executive at the firm told Arabian Business.

Media outlets yesterday reported that Spanish police have unmasked a gang of alleged fraudsters posing as representatives of Arab sheikhs, who promised millions of euros of investment or loans to victims that included Spanish football club Getafe.

Six Spaniards and a man from the Dominican Republic have been taken into custody as part of 'Operation Flame' and the group are accused of crimes including fraud and embezzlement, police in the Catalan capital Barcelona said in a statement.

Dubai’s Royal Emirates, which is headed by Sheikh Butti Bin Suhail Al Maktoum, agreed last year to buy the Madrid-based La Liga football club. Managing director Kaiser Rafiq told Arabian Business last night the firm had no knowledge of the alleged scam and said it planned to take action against those who had allegedly impersonated its company officials.

“We have no idea about this at all,” Rafiq said. “As per my lawyers in Spain, they have learned that they have arrested some people and they were trying to do some sort of swindle from people in the name of the UAE. They used our pictures for this purpose… They were trying to represent some Arab investors.”

In a statement, Royal Emirates said the “people arrested by the Barcelona police department are NOT our representatives and they have nothing to do with the Royal Emirates Group or its business deal with Getafe… We will take legal actions against those individuals or companies.”

The gang allegedly promised Getafe president Angel Torres a cash injection of €10m as long as the La Liga club maintained their top-flight status and were debt-free, the Barcelona police statement said.

In return, the club was required to transfer funds as a guarantee of solvency to an account controlled by the alleged fraudsters, but Torres broke off contact with the group when two cheques they had written bounced, Reuters reported.

However, Rafiq denied media reports Royal Emirates had defaulted on its investment to the club and said the firm was fully up to date on its contractual obligations. “As per contract, we are absolutely fine. We haven’t defaulted… A contract is in place and everything is OK,” he said.

In a letter to the Spanish ambassador to the UAE, which has been seen by Arabian Business, Royal Emirates said it had been given confirmation by Torres that he had not lodged any complaint with Barcelona police.

Click here to read the letter in full.

“I have confirmed with Mr Torres that he has no idea what the police are talking about as the police never contacted him,” Rafiq also told Arabian Business.

Rafiq also confirmed that Royal Emirates is actually due to take over the club at the start of the next Spanish season, which begins on August 18.

“The agreement was we will start taking over from the next year, not last year as the season had already begun. From this coming season we [will take over Getafe]. This was very clear to everyone,” he said.

In an interview with Arabian Business last year, Rafiq said Royal Emirates planned invest up to US$130m in the team over a five-year period.

“We have a big investment we are looking to put into it [and] in the players,” he said in April 2011.

When pushed as to the size of the investment, Rafiq said he “wouldn’t hesitate” to match the purchase price, which was put at between €70m and €90m ($100-130m).

“[We tell] the players the team will get stronger with our support.”

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