Lawyer of man suing Qatari royal says intimidation won’t discourage accountability fight after girlfriend raped

1 / 2
Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, right, and Abby Han, the girlfriend of Matthew Pittard who filed a lawsuit against the Qatari prince. (Photo/Supplied)
2 / 2
According to the lawsuit, Al-Thani threatened Allende and Pittard and, according to the lawsuit, vowed that they “would pay the price” for refusing to kill his enemies. (Facebook)
Short Url
Updated 23 February 2020

Lawyer of man suing Qatari royal says intimidation won’t discourage accountability fight after girlfriend raped

  • Girlfriend of man suing emir’s brother found brutally bludgeoned, raped
  • Two of Khaled Al-Thani's former employees accuse the Qatari of ordering them to kill his enemies

CHICAGO: The legal fight to hold Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Khalifa Al-Thani accountable will not be discouraged by any intimidation, the attorney of a man suing the Qatari royal for more than $33 million told Arab News.

Attorney Rebecca Castaneda’s comments came after the girlfriend of co-plaintiff Matthew Allende was found brutally bludgeoned and raped in her security-gated condominium in Pasadena, California.

Allende, one of two contractors who have accused Al-Thani of trying to kill them because they refused his orders to defend his honor and kill his enemies, said he fears that the brutal assault of his girlfriend is tied to the lawsuit.

Castaneda said she cannot confirm that the rape and assault are linked to the lawsuit she filed against Al-Thani on behalf of Allende and co-plaintiff Matthew Pittard. 

But she insisted that the legal fight to hold Al-Thani accountable will not be discouraged by any intimidation.

“We don’t yet know all the facts surrounding what occurred, but the plaintiffs aren’t dissuaded in any way from pursuing their cases. In fact, it has had the opposite effect and they’re now more driven than ever to succeed,” Castaneda told Arab News.

A high-profile playboy race car driver, Al-Thani threatened Allende and Pittard and, according to the lawsuit, vowed that they “would pay the price” for refusing to kill his enemies.

The lawsuit has brought embarrassing public headlines to Al-Thani, Qatar and his brother, who is the country’s ruling emir.

Allende told Pasadena police that he returned home from work on Jan. 14 and discovered his girlfriend Han, 42, on their bed in a pool of blood, with severe bruises to her head and face. 

Police recovered DNA evidence suggesting that she was also raped, but no suspect has been identified.

FASTFACT

For more than seven months after the lawsuit was filed, Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Khalifa Al-Thani was elusive, avoiding legal service possibly in the hopes of having the lawsuit thrown out of court.

Pasadena Detective Lt. Jesse Carrillo, who is heading the investigation, said he can only conclude at this time that the assault is not the result of a robbery. 

He noted that no valuables were stolen from the apartment, which contained more than $10,000 in jewelry and other valuables that were visible.

Allende filed the lawsuit against Al-Thani on July 23, 2019, along with his colleague Pittard. The lawsuit details how Al-Thani’s controversial lifestyle brought him into contact with shady characters who he feared would embarrass him on social media. 

Allende was employed as a paramedic by Al-Thani from approximately Oct. 15, 2017, to Feb. 4, 2018. 

Pittard was employed from Sept. 17, 2017, until July 10, 2018, as US director of security and as a senior defense consultant in Qatar.

Angered when they refused, Al-Thani threatened them with a gun and imprisoned them for several months in his palace in Doha. 

Allende, now a Los Angeles paramedic, and Pittard, a former US Marine, fled Qatar in February 2018.

For more than seven months after the lawsuit was filed, Al-Thani was elusive, avoiding legal service possibly in the hopes of having the lawsuit thrown out of court.

Castaneda filed the lawsuit in a Florida Federal Court initially against him personally, and against two of his companies, GEO Strategic Defense Solutions LLC and KH Holdings LLC. 

But when Al-Thani refused to be served and lawyers denied representing him, she expanded the lawsuit on Nov. 5, 2019, to include another of his companies, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which has offices in Florida.

Lawyers for Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, and Al-Thani, finally responded to the lawsuit and asked Federal Court Judge Thomas P. Barber to dismiss it. 

They argued that neither Al-Thani nor Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC had any legal presence in Florida.

We don’t yet know all the facts surrounding what occurred, but the plaintiffs aren’t dissuaded in any way from pursuing their cases. In fact, it has had the opposite effect and they’re now more driven than ever to succeed.

Rebecca Castaneda, Attorney for Matthew Allende

Elated, Castaneda asked the court to dismiss her lawsuit and announced that it will be refiled in Duxbury, Massachusetts, where Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC is headquartered.

When the lawsuit is refiled, Castaneda believes that she will force Al-Thani to submit to deposition and document discovery, or force a default judgment in her client’s favor.

The timing of the beating is suspicious because it came right after the legal maneuvering seemed to give Allende’s and Pittard’s case more weight.

Al-Thani’s attorney, Alejandro Soto of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels & Soto PLLC, argued in the motion to dismiss that Al-Thani has no legal presence in Florida and that its federal courts have no jurisdiction over his actions.

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban PLLC law firm, argued that Al-Thani is not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed that Florida lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

Reyes, Rosquete and Soto did not respond to repeated inquiries from Arab News for comment on the lawsuit.

The violence against Allende and his girlfriend may also have been prompted by salacious details that Castaneda released to Arab News in December.

Castaneda said the person Al-Thani ordered Allende and Pittard to murder is a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the Qatari royal. 

The unnamed drug dealer claimed to have photographs and videos of Al-Thani engaged in drug and homosexual sex parties at his mansion in Qatar and in Los Angeles.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda told Arab News at the time.

In another case, she said Al-Thani ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of his wife. 

Castaneda said Al-Thani feared that the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, the emir, and Qatar were in a row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.


Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

A man travels on a scooter past the closed El-Sayeda Zainab Mosque in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2020

Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

  • The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines

CAIRO: People around the world are living in uncertain times as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread. Fatalities and infections are rising as cities and countries go into lockdown.
Egypt is under a partial lockdown, forcing people to stay, work and learn at home. Yet behind this massive change and a fear of the unknown, COVID-19 has brought advantages.
Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, starting on March 15, respect for the government has increased, especially on social media.
“Suddenly the government is laying down a series of preemptive actions to slow down the spread of the virus,” Mohamed Badr, 32, a Cairo resident, said. “They disregarded the economic impact and focused on the safety of the people which made us all proud.”
There have been diplomatic gains. China’s Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang said that China and Egypt are partners and true friends, lauding Egypt’s support to Chinese efforts to combat the virus.
The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines.
The government’s order to shut down cafes and malls during curfew hours has led to a ban on the smoking of hookahs.
With fears over infections and with a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place, there is less consumption of unhealthy food.
There are fewer road accidents too. In 2018, there were 8,480 road accidents, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The number is expected to plunge this year due to the drop in vehicles on the road.

FASTFACT

Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, respect for the government has increased.

Working from home is the new normal. The culture of work from home is forcing its way in society as many learning technologies and cloud solutions are connecting homes and workplaces.
“When I used to invite people for a Zoom meeting they were surprised. Today, it’s a normal practice and many clients actually prefer this option,” a sales representative in Cairo said.
And with school and college students stuck at home, educational institutions have quickly taken up distance learning.
With millions of people now stuck in isolation, many are using the opportunity to get creative. Videos on social media show people developing hobbies, tricks, cooking skills and paintings.
Corporations are accelerating digital transformation. Several companies are racing to implement digital and cloud technologies to manage their businesses remotely. Several telco and financial institutions pushed their services online and through contact centers rather than branch visits.
Doctors are finally getting some credit. They have long called for better salaries and benefits but their requests have fallen on deaf ears. The virus has now brought some hope for a better package in the near future.
The environment is cleaner and less polluted. And now, everyone has more time to reflect.