Jerusalem Soccer Club Pulls Out of Partnership With UAE Sheikh

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Moshe Hogeg and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan after signing the Beitar Jerusalem deal, on December 7, 2020.
Moshe Hogeg and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, in December, 2020. Investigators couldn't find any solid information about projects actually carried out by the sheikh's companies.Credit: Beitar Jerusalem

The Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem withdrew on Sunday its request to transfer half of its ownership to Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, an Emirati billionaire.

A statement from the soccer club said that its owner had planned to fly to Dubai to meet with the sheikh after the committee that must approve the partnership requested more documents. "Unfortunately, the skies are still closed, and instead of asking for another extension, we preferred to withdraw the current request and submit a new request," it said. "Reports that the deal fell through are incorrect."

The club said it will reapply to have the transfer, worth 100 million shekels ($32 million), approved with the Israel Football Association in the near future.

The cancelation comes, among other things, because of Bin Khalifa's failure to present the relevant documentation about his integrity to Israel Football Association. The association is worried about major discrepancies between the sheikh’s declaration of assets and what he actually owns.

>> Israeli soccer fed fears unknown UAE sheikh is a front man for dubious figures

Bin Khalifa, who claimed to be a member of the royal family, stirred suspicions amongst decision-makers in the association following publications which threw his identity and fortune into question.

In December, a meeting was held with the association’s transfer committee – the body that must officially approve the partnership agreement between Sheikh Hamad and Moshe Hogeg, the majority stakeholder of Beitar Jerusalem. Hogeg, representatives of the team and its legal advisers participated in the meeting; the sheikh and his representatives attended via videoconferencing.

The committee did not present any new information to the sheikh, but mostly questioned him regarding his real estate and bond holdings, which he had declared in writing.

Committee members did not say a word, however, about what had transpired in the room just a few hours earlier (without Hogeg and the sheikh) – when they sat with representatives of the business intelligence company they’d hired to carry out due diligence on Sheikh Hamad’s assets.

A substantial number of suspicions regarding Sheikh Hamad were discussed at the preliminary meeting. One concerned the possibility that the Emirati is actually a front man. The investigators found that he owns dozens of inactive companies and that there are large discrepancies between the valuation presented in his formal list of assets to the soccer association and their actual value. In addition, information was presented regarding the sheikh’s connections to people who have been tied to fraud and money laundering.

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