Qatar 'spent huge sums on Muslim Brotherhood groups in Europe'

Scale of payments from Doha to Tariq Ramadan also revealed in documents published in new book

MARCH 29, 2010, DOHA, QATAR: Professor Tariq Ramadan, a west-based Muslim scholar and intellectual. Abu Nadha for The National
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Details of the lavish payments made by Qatar to Muslim Brotherhood organisations in Europe, including furnishing funds the academic Tariq Ramadan has used for legal fees to fight rape allegations, have emerged in a new book.

Qatar Papers - How the emirate finances Islam in France and Europe, written by two French journalists, publishes evidence that cheques and money transfers from Qatar have been used to underwrite more than 140 projects around Europe, where the Muslim Brotherhood has sought to expand its influence.

The book also documents payments of €72 million (Dh296m) to groups in seven European countries. In just one region of France, the payments have totalled €4.6m, including €3m for the Averroes de Lille high school.   Several staff at the school were linked to Muslim community bodies that also attracted Qatari support.

According to the book, Mr Ramadan was paid €35,000 a month as a consultant to the Qatar Foundation, a body set up by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the wife of the last emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Just before his arrest early last year that saw Mr Ramadan under criminal investigation, bank documents show that he withdrew €590,000 from Qatari bank accounts.

The authors point out that Mr Ramadan and his wife bought two apartments in prestigious areas of Paris in the same year.

The funds directed to leading Muslim Brotherhood figures in France and Switzerland, including Mucivi, or Le Musée des civilisations de l'Islam, a museum in Geneva that displays Muslim Brotherhood propaganda. It has received 1.4 million Swiss francs.  Swiss police are quoted expressing frustration that they cannot investigate the affairs of the Muslim League of Switzerland because it is a religious association, except in matters of terrorism.  Documents found in the Swiss home of Youssef Nada, a formerly prominent leader of the brotherhood, set out a strategy for co-opting mayors and other local bodies as tools of influence.

The book names a long-standing employee of the Qatari embassy in Paris as the key link in the money chain in Paris.  The employee is described as a protege of the ideological leader of the group, Qatar-based Yusuf Al Qaradawi. It also highlights French intelligence warnings about Qatari support for the L'Union des organisations islamiques de France, an umbrella body in France. It adds that Emmanuel Macron sought assurances from Qatari leaders that there would be no unreported financing of activities in France and that Doha would comply with initiatives to control funding of terrorism. "Following our investigation we have some reason to doubt that the Qatari leader respected his promise," the authors state.

Investigations into Mr Ramadan, a 56-year-old who is currently on bail and has surrendered his passport to the French authorities, centre on accusations that he raped two women, in 2009 and 2012. One is the outspoken feminist and activist Henda Ayari and the other, a disabled convert to Islam who has been named only as "Christelle". He denies the charges.

Last month a French court rejected a request to drop the two rape charges levelled against him. He was released on a €300,000 (Dh1.24 million) bail last November after ten months in jail. The Swiss academic was a professor at Oxford University but agreed to take a leave of absence in November 2017 when the allegations surfaced.

He is still being paid by the college, which has benefited from lavish Qatari funding.

A married father of four, Mr Ramadan’s Egyptian grandfather was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and his brother Hani heads the movement’s Islamic Centre of Geneva.

Large sums were also directed to Italy where the Al Houda Centre in Rome received €4million and the Union delle Comunita Islamiche d'Italia is the main conduit for Doha's largesse.

The book also raises the fundraising and spending patterns  of the Nectar Trust, which was formerly known as Qatar Charity. While it raised £27.9 million from grants in the year to March 31, 2017, its income slumped dramatically the following year to just £116,615.

Not just British projects were listed among the beneficiaries in the accounts. Nectar Trust directed funds to the Annour Centre in Mulhouse, France, one of towns where Qatar spending ran into the millions of euros.