The Al-Thani family's grip over Malaga CF loosened considerably this week when the judge investigating the criminal complaint against the Qataris by the club's Association of Minority Shareholders ordered the seizure of all assets in Spain belonging to the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani and his three sons who were directors at the club (Nasser, Rakan and Nayef). This mainly includes shares in the club itself (around 98 per cent of the total), vehicles and money deposited in various banks.
This measure is a precautionary one, pending a final ruling, and comes as a result of the non-payment of just over 8.5 million euros in bail. The sheikh and his sons are accused of money laundering, improper use of club funds and unpaid loans taken out against the club.
The alternative guarantees presented by the Al-Thanis (including payment in instalments over a decade and a property in Qatar they say is valued at six million euros) were dismissed by the judge as they were considered either non-existent, insufficient or beyond the control of the Spanish courts. The time to present a viable alternative has now passed.
As a result, judge María de los Ángeles Ruiz González has ordered that the seized vehicles (two Mercedes, a Mini and a Ducati) should be handed over at La Rosaleda stadium, that the banks where the defendants have accounts transfer the money (a little more than 23,000 euros) to a court account and, finally, that the Al-Thanis would be blocked from selling shares in any company in Spain (Málaga Club de Fútbol, NAS Football, NAS Spain 2000 and Nasir bin Abdullah and Sons) without judicial approval.
These assets will now remain blocked until the conclusion of the trial. If the sheikh and his sons are found guilty, these assets could go up for public auction.
The sheikh's shares in the club are also being contested in parallel court proceedings. Though more than half the shares have been provisionally awarded to the BlueBay hotel group, with whom Al-Thani signed a deal and then reneged on it, according to the courts, the decision isn't expected to be final until the courts consider the sheikh's latest appeal by next summer at the earliest.
For his part, in the hours following the announcement on Monday, the sheikh tweeted: "Corruption Summit / And hate and racism / And everyone will know this very soon / Law above all [sic]."
Lawyers representing the sheikh and his sons are expected to appeal this decision.