Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Charity funding concerns again raise issue of Qatar terror financing

The country has a long history of funnelling money to extremists but has, as yet, escaped repercussions outside the Gulf

A UK watchdog found that the Qatar Charity UK was receiving almost all its funding from Doha. AP
A UK watchdog found that the Qatar Charity UK was receiving almost all its funding from Doha. AP

The United Kingdom’s Charities Commission has issued a warning about the independence of an organisation with ties to a Qatari group designated by Gulf states as a terrorist group.

The commission, a watchdog for benevolent organisations operating in the country, raised the red flag about Qatar Charity UK, which has spent millions funding mosques and other organisations in Britain, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported.

The paper said the commission intervened four years ago when it discovered 98 per cent of the body’s funding was coming from the Doha-based arm of the Qatar Charity. A compliance report listed three of the UK charity's trustees in 2015 as being paid by the Doha-based arm.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies listed the Qatar Charity in Doha as a terrorist organisation in 2017 for its links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Qatar Charity UK changed its name last year to The Nectar Trust and the Telegraph said that in 2017 it received £28 million (Dh125m) from the Doha arm before donations significantly fell.

The British-based organisation has links to hate preacher Yusuf Al Qaradawi, who is banned in the UK and is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar is also one of the largest financial backers of Muslim Brotherhood organisations around the world, having donated well over $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in recent years.

The latest revelations come amid growing questions around Qatar’s use of charitable institutions to fund hardline and extremist groups.

The most prominent case of Qatari terror financing revolves around the possible $1bn ransom the government paid to free high-profile hostages – including members of the royal family. The money largely went to Iranian-linked groups including Kataib Hezbollah and possibly even the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Qatari royals went missing during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in 2015 and were held until the record ransom was paid by the government in cash by private jet to Baghdad and Beirut. The case was widely reported by the international press.

But it also highlighted the country’s involvement in the Syrian war and its support for hardline terror groups.

Reports indicate that the release of the royals was also tied to a deal in 2016 to relocate the populations of four strategic villages in Syria surrounded by fighting.

Qatar is reported to have used its influence with the former Al Qaeda local branch then called Al Nusra Front, now known as Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, to secure the deal at the request of Iran.

Transcripts of senior Qatari officials organising the entire hostage negotiation were leaked to the Washington Post in 2016.

The Doha arm of Qatar Charity has also been outlawed by Israel for supporting and funding Hamas.

Earlier this year, Qatar made sizeable cash donations to Hamas in a move criticised by many in Gaza as enabling oppression and continued human rights violations by the organisation against any critics in the enclave.

Hamas brutally suppressed mass protests against their rule and the current situation in the blockaded Gaza Strip in March, arresting hundreds and beating those peacefully demonstrating.

Between 2012 and 2018, Qatar provided Hamas in the Gaza Strip with $1.1bn in aid.

The country also hosts senior Hamas leaders and organises conferences and talks to promote the group.

Qatar’s support for terrorism was central to the 2017 decision by the Arab Quartet – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – to cut diplomatic ties with the peninsular nation.

A Qatari financier accused of helping fund the planning of the 9/11 attacks has also exploited loopholes in UN terror designations to draw a salary of $10,000 a month for “basic necessities” despite an asset freeze, The Wall Street Journal reported in June.

Khalifa Al Subaiy was designated by the UN in 2008 but lives in comfort in Doha where the government have made the requests for him to draw extensively on his frozen assets.

In June 2017, US President Donald Trump called on Qatar to stop funding terrorism, saying “no civilised nation can tolerate this violence or allow this wicked ideology to spread on its shores".

However, the US has maintained a sizeable military base on the peninsula.

Despite repeated and well-documented cases of state money going to fund extremism, Qatar has so far not faced serious international sanctions outside of the Gulf region. However, there have been growing calls for countries to take more stringent action against Qatari organisations funnelling money to hardline groups.

Updated: August 18, 2019 08:10 PM

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