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Qatar National Day marred by financial probe and a crisis within a crisis

Qatar National Day which reportedly was held with the message of defiance against a blockade since June 5, 2017 by four Arab countries was spoiled by news of internal strife and a financial investigation into improper handling of billions by the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

Qatar was hoping for a reconciliation between it and UAE, Saudi and Bahrain at the last GCC Summit in Kuwait, but that meeting was cut short, boycotted by Saudi King Salman, and witnessed the birth of a new economic and military alliance between Saudi and UAE.

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“The celebration holds new and deep messages to the siege countries about the strength of Qatar,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA) on Sunday.

That message of strength was immediately challenged.

What happened?

Internal split?

According to daily Egypt today, twenty members of “Al Thani”, the ruling Royal family in Qatar, held an opposition meeting on Monday December 18 against the policies of the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

It said the meeting called for a return of relations between Qatar and the Arab Quartet states.

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“The prominent Qatari oppositionist Sheikh Sultan Bin Suhaim Al-Thani organized the meeting in a step opposing the current Qatari regime, also to celebrate the National Day of the emirate,” said the daily.

“Bin Suhaim asserted that the rich gas Emirate will restore its peaceful relations with the Arab Gulf neighbor states.”
The gulf country with a 2.5 million population celebrates the annual holiday on December 18 to mark the date in 1878 when Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani succeeded his father as the emir and led the country towards unity.

Financial probe

According to Bloomberg, Barclays Plc is in talks with the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over a possible January 2018 deal to avoid new charges against one of its main operating units linked to a 12 billion-pound ($16.1 billion) fundraising at the height of the 2008 financial crisis in relation to the capital raising with Qatar.

The bank’s holding company and four former executives were charged with fraud and unlawful financial assistance in June with a trial scheduled for 2019.

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“The charges relate to the nature of 322 million pounds ($431.5m) in fees Barclays paid to the Qatar Investment Authority and a $3 bn loan facility it made available to the nation as part of side deals to the fundraising from Qatari and other investors in 2008. The deal allowed Barclays to avoid a state bailout when the industry crashed,” according to Bloomberg.

“The SFO opened an investigation into the Qatar deal in 2012. About a dozen senior executives were interviewed across the five-year-probe, including former Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond. The deal involved Qatar Holding LLC, a subsidiary of the country’s QIA sovereign wealth fund, and Challenger Universal Ltd., an investment vehicle of Qatar’s then prime minister.”

The British regulator had previously fined the bank 50 million pounds ($67m) in relation to how it disclosed the fees to the Qataris.