US attorney accuses Qatari royal of hiding from charges

Qatari Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani is facing charges he threatened to kill two former American employees who refused his orders to murder a critic. (Photo supplied)
Updated 29 October 2019

US attorney accuses Qatari royal of hiding from charges

  • Attorney Rebecca Castaneda files a motion in Florida court accusing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani of ‘evading service’

A Florida attorney accused Qatari Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the playboy race-car driver and brother of Qatar’s equally powerful Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, of hiding and refusing to face charges he threatened to kill two former American employees who refused his orders to murder a critic.

Attorney Rebecca Castaneda filed a motion on Friday in the Tampa, Florida Middle District Court accusing Al-Thani of “evading service.” Castaneda asked Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber to give her more time to serve legal documents to Al-Thani requiring him to appear in court, in person, and to provide a deposition of his response to the charges.

Normally in a federal lawsuit, plaintiffs have 90 days to serve the legal documents to the defendants, in this case Al-Thani. Once served, the defendants must appear in court in person, or face court-imposed fines or judgments.

“I filed a motion asking the judge for an extension to serve, and in it I stated that they are evading service,” Castaneda said.

“The American legal system has rules of procedure that specifically address situations such as evasion of service or default judgment. If an individual or a company chooses to evade or ignore a lawsuit, it’s at their own peril. Changing a name on a passport, flying private planes instead of commercial, or trying to evade customs authorities – these things don’t make a lawsuit go away.”

Castaneda field the original lawsuit in July on behalf of two former employees who worked for Al-Thani’s companies, Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende.

Also named as defendants are Al-Thani’s company Geo Strategic Defense Solutions LLC (GSDS) and KH Holdings LLC alleging violations of the US Fair Labor Standards Act and violating US laws.

Castenda said that KH Holdings has been properly served but that the attorney representing Al-Thani, Aryeh Kaplan, refused to accept the legal service to appear in court asserting that they did not represent Al-Thani’s interests or his company GSDS. Kaplan is a partner of the Miami, Florida law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Kaplan did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The lawsuit specifically alleges Pittard and Allende were threatened at gunpoint by Al-Thani when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder two unnamed Americans who Al-Thani suspected sullied his social reputation.

The lawsuit claims Al-Thani’s threats against Pittard, a security professional, and Allende, a paramedic, continued to escalate.

When Al-Thani discovered that an American he had imprisoned at his luxury palace in Qatar had been freed by Pittard and Allende, he threatened Pittard saying, according to the lawsuit, “he would kill him, bury his body in the desert, and kill Pittard’s family.”

The unnamed American who was being held captive was first arrested on Al-Thani’s orders and jailed at the Onaiza Police Station in Doha, before being moved to Al-Thani’s residence.

Documents claim Allende scaled a five-foot security fence and an 18-foot wall to escape Al-Thani’s Qatari compound after he was allegedly threatened at gunpoint.

Brandishing a Glock 26 automatic pistol, Al-Thani demanded Pittard return the freed unnamed American citizen and provide information about his whereabouts or, Al-Thani told Pittard, he “would pay the price.”

Castaneda said the two Americans are seeking $33 million in damages to compensate for their inability to pursue their careers because of Al-Thani’s actions. Al-Thani interfered in Pittard’s work with a Qatar security, law enforcement, and arms brokerage contract that Pittard had negotiated with the Police Training Institute in Doha, Qatar.

Al-Thani “created an environment of fear and intimidation. Defendant’s behavior has gone beyond a term of employment and intentionally extended into Pittard’s business and personal and professional lives,” the Lawsuit claims.

Al-Thani is being sued personally, and against his two companies, GEO Strategic Defense Solutions LLC and KH Holdings LLC.

Castaneda said the judge has issued a summons for Al-Thani ordering him to appear in court. She said she expects the legal process to continue for many months adding that the case is “a long way from trial.”

Although the lawsuit focuses on an employment dispute and the firings, it details the intimidation and threats that Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani allegedly made.

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 54 min 17 sec ago

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.