Andalusia set to strip Qatari sheikh’s license to extend and operate marina

Al Thani has failed to pay for concession and fulfill other contractual obligations

A computer-generated image by the José Seguí studio shows the proposed remodeling of the La Bajadilla marina in Marbella.
A computer-generated image by the José Seguí studio shows the proposed remodeling of the La Bajadilla marina in Marbella.EL PAÍS

Qatari businessman Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani looks set to lose what was set to be a key business for him in Spain’s Costa del Sol: La Bajadilla marina in Marbella. The Andalusian Ports Public Agency (APPA) is set to initiate proceedings to annul a contract it signed with Sheikh Abdullah in December 2011 because of his failure to fulfill the terms of the agreement. He has until midnight on Wednesday to rectify the situation or face losing his operating license.

Al Thani was given a three-month extension in January to comply with the terms of the deal. He had earlier been fined twice to the tune of 25,000 euros and 130,000 euros after failing to react to previous warnings. The Sheikh also failed to pay those fines.

Al Thani won a public tender to extend the installations at La Bajadilla marina in conjunction with a public company owned by Marbella City Hall, which has only a nominal interest in the project. The contract was signed on December 2, 2011 and the sheikh was due to submit a construction plan and to have set up a company to manage the concession by June of last year.

Apart from building the extension to the port and an adjoining commercial complex, Al Thani also took over the running of the port with 268 berths at the start of last year.

The sheikh failed to pay companies for services provided to the marina

In June 2012, the sheikh limited himself to handing over the same documentation submitted in the initial tender, along with details of a company to run the port that did not comply with the requisites stipulated by the APPA. The sheikh asked for and was given a three-month extension in order to comply with the requirements, but again failed to do so. He requested another extension, which was denied, and was instead fined 25,000 euros.

The terms of the concession call on the sheikh to pay an annual fee of 750,000 euros for the right to exploit the marina but he failed to do so last year and has yet to do so this year. The APPA also claims Al Thani has failed to take responsibility for the marina and has not collected the mooring fees from the vessels berthed at the port. The installation has one of the biggest dry docks in Andalusia, with capacity for 400 vessels. The APPA took in over 900,000 euros from the business in the two years prior to ceding the concessions to Al Thani.

The sheikh also failed to pay companies for services provided to the marina, for which he was fined 130,000 euros in September.

Despite the irregularities, the APPA in January decided to give Al Thani a further three months to comply with the terms of the contract. The mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, has asked the APPA to further extend the time given to Al Thani to regularize the situation, but the agency feels he has already had enough breaks.

The sheikh’s project entails investing 109 million euros to extend La Bajadilla and add 541 berths, with a wharf big enough to handle cruise ships. The project also includes a commercial center covering 23,000 square meters.

Al Thani is also the owner of Málaga soccer club, which reached the quarter finals of the European Champions League this year on its first appearance in the competition, but which faces being excluded from Europe next year pending appeal for failing to settle its debts.

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