Qatar is an unsavory Gulf state with vast holdings in the UK’s best-known brands and properties
As Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family travels to the UK with carrier bags full of banknotes, the money is coming the other way in a much more orthodox way.
The Gulf country, an absolute monarchy, has in recent years acquired stakes in some of our country’s best-known consumer brands, from Harrods and Sainsbury’s to Barclays Bank and British Airways.
Its properties, meanwhile, now stretch from The Shard to the Olympic Village, through Canary Wharf to Chelsea and the West End. In total, the Al Thanis would now control more real estate in London than Her Majesty The Queen.
Every time Brits buy groceries, flights or even a cup of tea at one of Qatar’s various luxury hotels (they control Claridge’s and The Berkeley Hotel, for example), they are therefore helping to fill the country’s already bloated coffers.
Not so long ago, the former Prime Minister of Qatar revealed that he had “possibly” financed the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. We now know he was helping fill Prince of Wales coffers around the same time
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (4th R) attends the opening ceremony of the 19th Mediterranean Games in Oran, Algeria, June 25, 2022
The same goes every time you or I turn on the central heating or turn on a light switch. Just under 10% of all the gas used by this country is imported in liquefied form after being produced in Qatar.
It was thanks to huge reserves of fossil fuels, located off the coast it shares with Iran, that the small desert state transformed itself in a few decades from an impoverished backwater whose main industry was pearl fishing in perhaps the richest metropolis in the world.
Today, only 330,000 citizens enjoy a per capita GDP of around £100,000, more than three times that of the UK, and share the spoils of a £360 billion sovereign wealth fund. pound sterling. Petrol costs 47 pence a litre, electricity is free and their daily needs are met by around two million immigrant workers.
There are, it must be pointed out, some unsavory facts about life under the Al Thani yoke. For despite their love of Western luxury cars and designer goods, the ruling family presides over a deeply regressive Islamic society where misogyny is rife and public flogging is a popular spectator sport.
Qatar is a country where women must seek a man’s approval to marry, study or travel, and sex outside marriage can land you in jail for up to seven years, even if you are a victim of rape. Alcohol is banned outside luxury hotels, blasphemy carries a prison sentence, and stoning remains a legal form of punishment.
The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al Thani, at his residence outside Doha, Qatar, in 2013
Being gay is also bad news, unless you fancy three years behind bars in a country where daytime temperatures this week hit 45C (113F). Indeed, six months ago, authorities decided to confiscate rainbow-colored toys and baby clothes from local stores because they “encourage homosexuality”.
None of this is of much concern to Qatar’s ruling emir, Harrow and Sandhurst-educated Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, 42, a committed heterosexual who has three wives. They have so far produced at least 13 children between them.
With no free press, her love life attracts little local media coverage. No more than Qatar’s grotesque treatment of migrant workers, millions of whom are shipped from impoverished Third World countries to build skyscrapers, roads and, in recent years, vast stadiums to host the World Cup, they somehow persuaded Fifa, the notorious and corrupt football governing body, to award them.
Allowed entry on the condition that they surrender their passports and agree they have no legal rights – a form of slavery in all but name – these workers perished by the thousands. Just last month, a Sportsmail investigation revealed that 239 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar in a 12-month period from 2020 to 2021.
Qatar’s ties to terrorism also attract little local attention. For years, the country has provided a safe haven for Islamic fundamentalists and preachers of hate, including the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, and Abdul Rahman Omeir Al Naimi, sanctioned by the United States as a “financier and terrorist facilitator based in Qatar”.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have been allowed to run their world headquarters from Qatar, while the government, which backs the Hamas regime in Gaza, has allowed money to flow to an array of dubious terror groups.
Not so long ago, former Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, revealed that he had “possibly” financed the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, while he was in office, but insisted he knew nothing about it. We now know that Sheikh Hamad was helping fill the Prince of Wales’ coffers around the same time.