Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

Senior Qatari accused of weapons trafficking by former security chief

Ex-US serviceman says he unsuccessfully tried to stop an illicit weapons deal by a member of the Qatari ruling family

Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with six former employees. Source Official Facebook Fan Page for His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani  
Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with six former employees. Source Official Facebook Fan Page for His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani  

Former employees accused a senior member of the Qatari ruling family of illegally trafficking weapons in the latest claim of an increasingly bitter court battle in the US.

A former security chief for Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani alleges in new documents that he unsuccessfully tried to stop the emir’s brother from illegally importing pistols from a California-based gun dealer.

The weaponry arrived in Qatar through “improper channels and without proper regulatory permits,” according to documents filed by six former employees including Matthew Pittard, a former US serviceman employed by Sheikh Khalid for $100,000 a year.

“Pittard attempted to prevent an illegal weapons purchase by Al Thani that ultimately, through no fault of Pittard’s,” was unsuccessful, according to a document filed by the six plaintiffs to a US court.

The legal papers include an email sent to Mr Pittard on December 3, 2017, by the owner of a California gun shop giving details of nine pistols, but it was not immediately clear which weapons were allegedly shipped to Qatar.

The allegation is included in papers filed late last month by the six former employers suing Sheikh Khalid, 34, in the US over alleged unpaid wages, false imprisonment and assaults on staff.

Sheikh Khalid is fighting the case and his lawyers are attempting to have the legal claim thrown out by a court in Boston, Massachusetts.

While working for Sheikh Khalid, Mr Pittard claimed that the senior Qatari asked him to kill three people to protect his reputation. Mr Pittard refused and said the Qatari also threatened him.

“The illegal trafficking of weapons to Qatar shows Al Thani’s threats of violence were not merely just verbal threats,” according to documents filed on Wednesday by Mr Pittard’s legal team.

His lawyers said it also demonstrated “Al Thani’s ability to manipulate Qatari government systems for personal gain and avoid accountability”.

Sheikh Khalid leads KH Holding, a conglomerate responsible for building some of the largest 2022 World Cup venues in Qatar.

He is best known for substantial investments in the drag-racing industry and spent about $100 million on building and competing in teams over three years, the men claimed.

The six - whose roles ranged from racing driver to personal physician - accuse Sheikh Khalid of brutal treatment of the staff working for him. The allegations include involvement in beating to death his wife’s Indian chauffeur in the Qatari desert.

The six have also accused him of administering repeated electric shocks to a migrant worker who he accused of mistreating a dog.

Lawyers for Sheikh Khalid said the Americans’ case was full of “scandalous,” “impertinent” and “wholly irrelevant” details and questioned whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

The six claimants have had “ample time and opportunity to formulate their claims in a concise fashion and have shown they are incapable of doing so,” said lawyers for his drag-racing team.

Lawyers for Sheikh Khalid and Mr Pittard have been approached for comment.

Updated: November 5, 2020 08:22 PM

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