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.

Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

Updated 16 min 6 sec ago

Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

  • ‘One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter’
  • ‘We have to change the way we view technology’

DUBAI: The next wave of value creation in the business world will not come from companies that develop artificial intelligence (AI), but from those that can innovatively deploy technology to transform industries, Waleed Al-Muhairi, deputy CEO of Mubadala Investment Co., said on Tuesday at the first Middle East SALT conference.

The two-day event is taking place in Abu Dhabi, and is run by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

It is hosting more than 1,000 leaders from the worlds of investment, finance and policymaking at the city’s financial hub, the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Discussing Mubadala’s partnerships with China, the UAE’s largest trading partner, Al-Muhairi referred to billion-dollar investments in China’s private and public sectors.

“We have a wonderful partnership with China. We’ve established a $10 billion fund there with the China Development Bank, and have deployed almost $2 billion in 15 to 16 different sectors, with technology being the main theme,” he said.

Mubadala currently has $240 billion of assets under management, with close to $100 billion invested in the US (60 percent of the state-owned holding company’s portfolio).

The remaining 40 percent is divided “almost” equally between investments in the UAE, Europe and Asia, “with a heavy concentration in China,” said Al-Muhairi.

“But our objective is to participate in the growth and success of a large, growing and dynamic economy like China’s,” he said, adding that it is only a matter of time before the country becomes the “largest economy on Earth.”

On technology, Al-Muhairi cited Asia-focused private equity firm Hill House, which transformed a mid-level athletic footwear company in China to the No. 1 brand in the country through the deployment of AI.

The company applied the expertise of 50 scientists and engineers to revolutionize the manufacturing process of footwear, while subsequently improving the brand’s retail experience.

By placing censors on the shelves to detect customers’ interest in buying specific footwear, they were able to shorten the cycle of understanding customer feedback and preference, said Al-Muhairi.

“One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter. And those business that are able to curate a customized experience for customers are going to be the ones who succeed, especially in the retail industry,” he added.

While people often refer to technology as a “sector,” Al-Muhairi believes it is similar to the concept of “electricity” in that it empowers projects and is infused in everything we do today.

“We have to change the way we view technology,” he said, adding that while it is the “life-blood of any successful company” and the “single most important enabler,” it is not an objective in itself. 

“We don’t invest in technology for the sake of technology. We invest in it because it will transform something or it will create value and a return,” he said.