Qatar is an unsavoury Gulf state with a vast stake in the UK

Qatar has in recent years built stakes in some of our country’s best-known consumer brands and its property holdings stretch from The Shard to the Olympic Village… But this is an unsavoury Gulf state with a vast stake in the UK, writes GUY ADAMS

While Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family travels to the UK bearing carrier bags stuffed with banknotes, cash flows back the other way in a far more orthodox fashion.

The Gulf country, an absolute monarchy, has in recent years built stakes in some of our country’s best-known consumer brands, from Harrods and Sainsbury’s to Barclays Bank and British Airways.

Its property holdings, meanwhile, now stretch from The Shard to the Olympic Village, via Canary Wharf to Chelsea and the West End. In all, the Al Thanis are said to now control more London real estate than Her Majesty the Queen.

Whenever Britons buy groceries, flights, or so much as a cup of tea at one of Qatar’s various luxury hotels (they control Claridge’s and The Berkeley Hotel, for example) they therefore help fill the country’s already bulging coffers.

Not long ago, Qatar’s former prime minister revealed he’d ‘maybe’ financed the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. We now know he was helping fill the Prince of Wales’s coffers at around the same time

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (4th R) attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Mediterranean Games in Oran, Algeria on June 25, 2022

The same is true each time you or I turn up the central heating or flick on a light switch. For just under 10 per cent of all the gas this country uses is imported in liquefied form having been produced in Qatar.

It is thanks to enormous fossil fuel reserves, situated off the coast it shares with Iran, that the tiny desert state has been transformed in a few short decades from an impoverished backwater whose main industry was pearl fishing into perhaps the world’s wealthiest metropolis.

Just 330,000 citizens today enjoy a per-capita GDP of around £100,000, more than three times the UK’s, and share the spoils of a £360billion sovereign wealth fund. Petrol costs 47p a litre, electricity is free, and their daily needs are serviced by around two million immigrant workers.

There are, it must be stressed, some unsavoury 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 floggings are a popular spectator sport.

Qatar is a country where women must seek male approval to marry, study or travel, and sex outside marriage can land you in jail for seven years, even if you happen to be a rape victim. Alcohol is banned outside luxury hotels, blasphemy attracts a prison sentence, and stoning remains a legal form of punishment.

The Prince of Wales shakes hands with the 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 the authorities decided to confiscate rainbow-coloured toys and infant clothing from local shops because they allegedly ‘encourage homosexuality’.

None of which is much of a concern for Qatar’s ruling emir, the Harrow and Sandhurst-educated Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, 42, a committed heterosexual who boasts three wives. They have so far produced at least 13 children between them.

In the absence of a free Press, his romantic life attracts little local media coverage. Nor does Qatar’s grotesque treatment of migrant workers, millions of whom are shipped in from impoverished Third World countries to build skyscrapers, roads and, in recent years, vast stadiums to cater for the World Cup they somehow persuaded football’s famously corrupt governing body Fifa to award them.

Allowed entry on the condition they hand over their passports and agree that they have no legal rights – a form of slavery in all but name – these workers have perished by the thousand. Only last month a Sportsmail investigation revealed that 239 workers from Nepal alone had died in Qatar in a 12-month period from 2020 to 2021.

Also attracting little local scrutiny are Qatar’s links to terrorism. For years, the country has provided safe haven to Islamic fundamentalists and hate preachers, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, and Abdul Rahman Omeir Al Naimi, sanctioned by the US as a ‘Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator’.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has been allowed to run its global head office from Qatar, while the government, which supports the Hamas regime in Gaza, has allowed money to flow to an array of questionable terror groups.

Not long ago, Qatar’s former prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim revealed that he’d ‘maybe’ financed the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, while he was in office, but insisted that he knew nothing about it. We now know that Sheikh Hamad was helping fill the Prince of Wales’s coffers at around the same time.

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