Pressure on Qatari officials has been mounting in the context of FIFA corruption around the attribution of the 2022 World Cup that went to the Peninsula where football will have to be played in air-conditioned stadiums. According to reports, the FBI and Brazilian police are now investigating a Qatari transfer of USD 22 million made to senior Brazilian officials immediately after the tournament was awarded.
In New York City, the former president of Colombia’s football federation, Luis Bedoya, told a courtroom two weeks ago that he was approached over potential bribe payments to back Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Bedoya said, that an Argentine businessman said “he could ask for 10 or 15m [in bribes] and could divide it up”, in exchange for support to Qatar’s world cup bid.
But in appearance, Qatar is a world leader when it comes to tackling illegal embezzlement and bribery. The Qatar-run Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center (ROLACC) is a global initiative ostensibly aimed at “strengthening of the rule of law and fighting corruption in line with international standards and national needs, and in order to provide support to the parties concerned, especially from Arab countries”. It is indeed praiseworthy that one of the world’s wealthiest countries came forward to offer a helping hand to anti-corruption activities at the international level.
In March 2017, ROLACC established a Swiss subsidiary in Geneva which was inaugurated by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Qatar’s Attorney General and UN Special Advocate for the Prevention of Corruption, Ali Mehsin A. Fetais. This is the third regional center to be opened after the Doha ROLACC launched in December 2011 in partnership with the United Nations and the Dakar Center in the Senegalese capital, which opened last year.
ROLACC claims the Geneva office “will be an important platform in Europe to share experiences, provide training opportunities and conduct research on anti-corruption and rule of law issues.”
That is all very well indeed, and immensely commendable, but the current state of reports and investigations of the world cup debacle, invites a need for further study of the setting up of this global behemoth against corruption.
Some critics go as far as to suggest that the organization could have been set up with ulterior motives, saying that indeed, through such an organization it would be easier to approach, lobby and attempt to influence UN diplomats, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, judges, academics, and lawyers globally.
Fetais, once the President of the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and one of the distinguished men responsible for rooting it out, is a central Qatari figure in the battle against corruption, but his wealth and business projects invite further examination.
Wealth galore and real estate moguls
New Europe has seen evidence that Fetais owns a French property with two of his sons worth circa 10 million Euros. Intriguingly, the company through which he owns the property has its bank accounts not in his own country, or in France where he owns the property. The accounts of the company are in National Bank of Kuwait, safely away from both Qatar and France, which means that in the event of any legal hassles pertaining to the source of his wealth or other issues of financial irregularities, he can at the same time avoid the French authorities and escape the legal implications of any bilateral agreements on money laundering between France and his own country.
France is a country that has not shied away from investigating several African Head of States and their families around which there have been legal proceedings for years, and high profile convictions. Transparency International played a substantial role to shine a light on these stories, and it is possible that they could start taking a close look at Fetais’s wealth given the current climate.
Sources confirmed that Fetai’s wealth is parked not just in France. He is the sole director of a Swiss real estate firm called GSG Immobilier SA, owned together with another family member. This company is actively involved in real estate deals in Geneva. Now comes the most interesting part of the story: GSG Immobilier recently purchased the same property where ROLACC’s office is. This raises huge questions of conflict of interest, and breaches all norms of probity and integrity that ROLACC is supposed to embody.