Senior Qatari royal accused of chauffeur killing in US lawsuit

Six former employees say they were forced to work around the clock for the Emir of Qatar’s brother

The skyline of Doha, Qatar. EPA
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A senior member of the Qatari royal family has been accused of beating his wife’s chauffeur to death in a lawsuit brought by six former employees in the US.

Court papers allege that Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and his security detail attacked the Indian man at the royal family’s desert compound outside Doha before his lifeless body was loaded into the back of a car.

The 137-page lawsuit accuses Sheikh Khalid, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, of corrupt and violent behaviour and that he sought to press his staff into killing his rivals, hacking into the communications of Middle East dignitaries, and carrying out wild schemes such as developing a weaponised drone.

The case has been brought by six Americans who worked for Sheikh Khalid in various roles from racing driver to private physician. They say they were forced to work punishing schedules under strict orders from the mercurial playboy. All claim they were not paid money owed to them.

Sheikh Khalid, 33, told one of the plaintiffs, Terry Hope, that he believed that his brother, the Emir, was watching him or listening in on his conversations, and sought his help to debug his home.

Mr Hope also claimed that Sheikh Khalid asked him to fix a gun on a 3ft-long drone because he wanted to “fly it around and shoot people”, according to the writ filed this week in a court in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr Hope said that he subsequently crashed the drone on purpose when he realised what it was wanted for.

Initially employed as a team chief and car tuner for Sheikh Khalid’s racing outfit, Mr Hope said he was working at his employer’s private residence when he saw him berating his wife’s chauffeur.

Sheikh Khalid grabbed a pistol, Mr Hope said, before he issued orders to his security team to teach the chauffeur “a lesson”, the court papers said.

After they arrived at the desert camp compound, Mr Hope said he was forced to watch as the royal and his security detail punched the chauffeur to the ground, then picked him up and repeated the punishment.

He said he then saw Sheikh Khalid put a pistol in the man’s mouth before striking him on the back of the head after which the driver fell to the ground and stopped breathing.

As the body was loaded into the back of the car, Sheikh Khalid allegedly told him: “This is what happens when you cross me. This is my world.”

The lawsuit detailed how the businessman was later removed from his palace in 2019 after a four-hour armed stand-off between his security team and that of the Emir.

The six men are seeking damages from Sheikh Khalid, who heads KH Holding, a sprawling conglomerate charged with building some of the largest 2022 World Cup venues. He is best known for substantial investments in the drag-racing industry and spent some $100 million on building and competing in teams in three years, according to the writ.

The court action updates a legal claim posted last year by two of Sheikh Khalid’s former employees. It detailed how he allegedly threatened to kill his US security chief, Matthew Pittard, after Mr Pittard refused to obey an order to murder two people.

Then, in July 2018 last year, the Sheikh and his security staff allegedly imprisoned in one of his residences an American on two occasions, before arranging for the person to be arrested and held at a police station.

In co-operation with the US Embassy, Mr Pittard helped the individual escape Qatar. The royal and his staff are alleged to have demanded the disclosure of the American's whereabouts, warning that Mr Pittard would "pay the price" if he refused to do so.

“Defendant Khalid directly told Pittard that he would kill him, bury his body in the desert, and kill Pittard's family," the writ alleges.

That lawsuit also involved another former member of staff, Matthew Allende, who alleges he had to clamber over an 18ft-high wall to escape the royal's Qatari compound. However, he was badly injured, caught and taken to hospital before being sacked.

The UK's, which first reported the latest lawsuit, said that the Sheikh's legal team did not respond to requests for comment. The National could not reach anyone at KH Holdings in Qatar for comment.