Dubai-based contractor Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) has launched 73 separate legal cases against a company owned by a member of the Qatari royal family in a long-running dispute over payments related to the Doha City Centre development, Khalaf Al Habtoor has told Arabian Business.
Some of the cases would be heard in major international courts, including in London and New York, Al Habtoor, who is chairman of Al Habtoor Group and owns about 25.5 percent of HLG in a joint venture with Australian contractor Leighton Holding and HLG chairman Riad Sadik, said.
“It’s going to be big,” Al Habtoor said.
The disputes are against Al Faisal Holding, the overarching company owned by Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, who is related to the Qatari Emir.
Al Faisal Holding is a master developer of the Doha City Centre project, of which HLG has a $325m contract to construct five hotels - branded Renaissance, Marriott, Shangri-La, Rotana and Merweb – connected to the massive Doha City Centre Mall.
HLG also has built or is building numerous apartment towers in Doha under contract with Al Faisal Holding.
The most significant of the legal cases was recently launched after Al Faisal Group unexpectedly sought to cash in on $100m worth of performance bonds being held by a bank as security for the completion of a phase of HLG’s work on the Doha project.
HLG argues the unexpected cashing in of the bonds was “illegal and unethical”.
The developer claims it is owed more than AED1bn ($272.25m) by Al Faisal Holding.
“He’s electing [instead] to cash the bonds; it’s something I consider illegal and unethical,” Al Habtoor said.
“Whatever happened, I’m 100 percent sure that HLG has been legitimate and they have the right [to bring the legal action].
“No respect has been shown to the management of HLG and to the work they’ve done for Sheikh Faisal, unfortunately.”
Construction has boomed in Qatar, which is experiencing enormous economic and population growth and is preparing to host the 2022 World Cup.
But Al Habtoor said Al Faisal Holding was tarnishing the reputation of Qatar among developers and the disputes were affecting the Gulf state’s international relationships.
“This is like a cancer, like a disease, and if this disease spreads all over the world people will be very cautious and they’ll be very concerned to do work even with payment in advance,” he said.
“Therefore I appeal to the Emir of Qatar to do something [about] this case and similar cases.”
HLG and Al Faisal Holding began working together on the Doha City Centre project about seven years ago, but Al Habtoor said the relationship had since broken down.
“[We started working] with Sheikh Faisal in very good faith, I don’t know what happened later,” he said.
“We have had a great relationship and, we thought, with his clients [too].
“We gave all that he wanted, all the faith, all the money, all the construction ... and unfortunately this is what happened.”
Al Faisal Holding declined to comment when contacted by Arabian Business.
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