Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup Final football match between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 July 2020

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup
  • Al-Thani declared as his mission to promote sports and healthy living among Qatari’s
  • The Emir is busy sorting out the violent mischief of several of his 24 siblings

CHICAGO: When Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was named Emir of Qatar in 2013 by his father, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who took power in a coup in 1995, his biggest controversy was his eagerness to continue his father’s policy of building ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Emir Tamim Al-Thani declared as his mission to promote sports and healthy living among Qatari’s and rebuild Qatar’s image abroad as he leads Qatar’s plans to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Today, the Emir is busy sorting out the violent mischief of several of his 24 siblings from his fathers’ three wives, while distancing himself, at least publicly, from Qatar’s involvement in the killing and maiming of at least 10 Americans during his father’s reign.
But his worst public scandals involve the antics of two younger brothers, playboy racing driver and accused murderer Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani and the until now obscure Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, who is the cornerstone of an exposé published in the Los Angeles Times this week.
Sheikh Khaled has been accused in a federal lawsuit filed in June by six former employees of murdering an Indian driver who worked for his wife, and threatening to murder a dozen others, from racing car industry rivals to friends he suspected of leaking information about his personal life.
On June 16, 2020, Florida Attorney Rebecca Castaneda asserted KHK’s brother, Sheikh Khaled, “created an environment of hostility, falsely imprisoned employees, caused personal injury, assaulted and battered employees, inflicted emotional distress, engaged in retaliation, and intentionally interfered in business relationships,” and was involved in at least one murder.
Sheikh Khaled first made a name for himself when he recklessly drove his $3.4 million yellow McLaren P1 GTR Ferrari at speeds of 100 mph through Beverly Hills, California, in a 2015 rampage caught on video. Confronted by police, Sheikh Khaled declared “diplomatic immunity.”
Although hard to steal the headlines from his racing “bad boy” brother, Sheikh Khalifa is on his way to “Qatari fame,” the focus of a detailed profile published in the Los Angeles Times. Sheikh Khalifa, a head of Qatar’s internal security apparatus, the notorious “Lekhwiya” – derived from a Qatari word for brother — has been exposed as a part of the growing college admissions scandal that has resulted in charges being filed against more than 50 Hollywood and sports celebrities, mostly in California.
Sheikh Khalifa, better known as “KHK,” has a bachelor’s in public policy with distinction and master’s in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California (USC), sources claim as a result of a pattern of bribes, bullying, and broken rules by the Qatari royal family.
Sources claim KHK skipped classes claiming “security” concerns and got his degrees without stepping foot on the campus, allowed to study remotely while living at the posh Beverly Wilshire hotel. A professor said KHK submitted his finals in a bag that included a Rolex valued at more than $12,500.
KHK’s education was bought by his family through huge donations to California universities. Before “graduating” from USC, KHK attended with two cousins the LA Mission College, a community college 25 miles from Beverly Hills. He then made a failed attempt to transfer to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
A hotel executive identified in the story allegedly promised “a substantial donation” if UCLA would admit KHK.
When UCLA officials refused to meet to discuss KHK’s enrolment, his mother Mozah bint Nasser traveled to California to lobby for her son’s admission. She personally oversaw $1 billion in donations to American universities, according to the LA Times.
When the push for UCLA failed, the family turned to USC, where they targeted influential people around the university, including friends, business associates and several of USC’s wealthy trustees. One of these was the billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr, an LA investor and founder of Colony Capital, who oversaw the construction of the Al-Thani family’s $300-million hilltop Bel-Air California compound.
Four months later, KHK was a certified USC student, although the Qatar Foundation and Mozah insisted that the prince had “already been admitted.”
Members of the Qatari royal family and employees were sent to Los Angeles to care for KHK, and found themselves, allegedly, concealing inflated expenses from the family back home, according to the LA Times. These included airline ticket reimbursements ($200 became $8,700), and nonexistent legal fees of $73,000.
The slush fund of inflated payments from the Emir went to cover KHK’s luxurious lifestyle in Los Angeles.
Like his playboy racing older brother Sheikh Khaled, KHK loved fast cars, too, and was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in 2014 for racing down the 10 Freeway at 130 mph in a white Maybach Ferrari which rivals for cost Sheikh Khaled’s McLaren P1 GTR. KHK was charged but never showed up for the arraignment.
Their Ferraris achieved their own fame as car enthusiasts shot videos of them parked outside the Beverly Wilshire. One included a photo of Scott Disick, the ex-boyfriend of Kourtney Kardashian who posed on the hood of Al-Thani’s car. “Thanks for the ride @KHK,” Disick captioned the photo on Instagram.
After KHK received his bachelor’s degree, he received a “special dispensation” to study remotely for his master’s because “family duties” prevented him from attending classes. Nonetheless, KHK was praised by USC for turning in papers of a “high standard” that were “potentially publishable.”
KHK’s exploits and controversies only add weight to the searing issues Emir Tamim must weigh as Qatar turns the corner to hosting the FIFA World Cup.
On June 10, relatives of 10 Americans who were killed or seriously injured during terrorist attacks in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank filed a “wrongful death” lawsuit against Qatar’s Royal family. The Al-Thanis are accused of financing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are both designated as “terrorist organizations” by the US government.
According to the lawsuit, Qatar sought to evade US sanctions by channeling money through three entities, the Qatar Charity, and two Middle East banks that Qatar’s royal family controls, Masraf Al-Rayan and Qatar National.

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 23 January 2021

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”