HomeBussinessJustin Haber ordered to pay thousands to business partner over failed restaurant...

Justin Haber ordered to pay thousands to business partner over failed restaurant business

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Former national team goalkeeper Justin Haber has been ordered to pay €12,015, and his company, Haber 16 Ltd another €10,811, to a company that held a stake in the restaurant venture.

The order came after a court rejected his claims, including an allegation that the restaurant had been used as a vehicle for money laundering without his knowledge.

Malta-registered Delta 3 Finance and Investments Company had agreed to purchase a 50% stake in Justin Haber’s Marsaxlokk restaurant “Haber 16” for €50,000, which was eventually superseded by another agreement where Delta 3 purchased a 12.5% stake for €12,500 in 2019. 

Under that agreement, Delta 3 was supposed to run the restaurant, but said that it had also started paying the defendants’ creditors to reduce the substantial debts which they had accumulated, allegedly disbursing a total of €61,371.83. This was in addition to another €10,000 which had been paid to Haber himself to help him out of a precarious financial situation, said the plaintiff company.

Justin Haber and Haber 16 Ltd had filed a judicial letter against Delta 3, demanding damages for non-fulfilment of contractual duties and accusing it of withholding profits.

As a result, Delta 3 had returned the restaurant operation to Haber and his company and did not liquidate its shareholding, instead requesting that the money it had paid to Haber’s creditors and third parties to keep the restaurant afloat be refunded to it. The money was not returned, however, and so the Delta 3 filed its court case.

Haber and Haber 16 had rebutted the plaintiff’s claims, accusing Delta 3 of gross negligence and fraud, as well as alleging misappropriation and false accounting. The defendants counter-said the timing of events indicated that Delta 3 and its director Mohammed M. Fahmi had planned to do so all along and had entered into the contract in bad faith.

They alleged that Delta 3 had used Haber 15 Ltd as a money laundering vehicle for money arriving from Dubai, something which had taken place without the authorisation or knowledge of Haber or the company, and had deleted Haber 16 Restaurant’s Facebook page, which had a following of 11,000 plus without permission.

It was also refusing to return the account books and other documents relating to the business in order to destabilize its operation, claimed the defendants, who also filed a counterclaim for damages.

Handing down judgement on the matter on November 2, Mr. Justice Toni Abela observed that although the agreements both stipulated that “the parties shall have equal rights in the management of the partnership,” the same clause goes on to say that “the Second Party [Haber and Haber 13] will fully manage the business and the day-to-day running will be vested in him.” 

The judge noted that the contracts were too vague and generic to establish a serene relationship between the parties and failed to provide an interpretation of the various rights and obligations of each party to the contracts. “These two contracts invited trouble between the parties and in fact the problems started just five months after they were drawn up, as can be seen in the judicial letter.”

It was “most clear,” said the court, that Haber might have had a good knowledge of sea life, but was “totally lacking when it came to selling and serving [seafood].”

One of the managers appointed by Fahmi to run the restaurant testified that Haber’s role in the operation was “eating and drinking,” telling the court that when Haber would try to give him a hand, he would tell him to sit down because his lack of catering knowledge would only impede the manager further.

On the witness stand Haber himself had admitted that he did not know how to manage the restaurant he owned, noted Abela, saying that “the court is not convinced that the defendant knows the value of money and therefore this fact was also reflected in the company’s financial health.” This was a leading factor which led to the company’s collapse.

Fahmi also testified that “a few weeks later, due to Mr Haber’s insistence and constant badgering how broke he is and that he needs more cash I offered him to purchase a further 12% of the restaurant to which he agreed and a second agreement for that amount was signed to which he received payment for the amount of €12,500. This effectively made us majority shareholders in the establishment,” but the judge said the court could not explain how the two contracts had the same date when they were entered weeks apart. 

Haber claimed to have spent €330,000 on the business and had received a €200,000 offer from the defendant company, but the judge observed that he had also sold 62% of the shares for €62,500. “This could either mean that the defendant is confused, or that he is not telling the truth, or that he was being pressed for money. Probably a mix of these three elements.”

The judge also slammed the practice of parties depositing large quantities of financial documents which they probably do not even understand themselves and expect the court to compute them for the parties, saying it was “not acceptable.” In spite of this, the court had examined the documents itself in order for justice to be done, said Abela, pointing out that a pile of disorganised receipts had been exhibited by Delta 3, some of them lacking even a date.

The defendant had received €12.015, in his personal capacity, which amount he was therefore ordered to refund the plaintiff company himself, with Haber 16 Ltd liable for another €10,811, ruled the court.

“It emerges that the defendant lacked the capital required to finance this activity, so much so that the defendant was constantly nagging the plaintiff for money because he was clearly pressed for cash. It also emerges from the agreement that the day-to-day management of the restaurant was left to the defendant company at its own request.”

The evidence and balance and probabilities pointed towards the capital having been paid out by the defendant company, said the judge, stressing that the court would only consider payments which were clearly tied to the restaurant. The failure to produce receipts and documents proving payment would impinge on the amount owed by the defendant company.

Haber’s request for a retrial of the case due to allegations of fraud on the plaintiff’s part was rejected, with the court saying that although it was clear that the business agreement was a bad one from the start, and that there were surely shortcomings on both sides, these had not been shown to the point where the court could serenely say that the company had carried out the allegedly fraudulent actions.

With reference to the picture of the restaurant posted in this article, Johann Bonello, clarified that he has been operating the restaurant Harbour by Johann, formerly known as Haber 16, since February 2021, and Haber has not been involved in any way in this restaurant since then. Furthermore, Bonello has no business relations or any connections whatsoever with Haber.

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