This material belongs to: Khaleej Times.
On December 8, in front of the Palais des Nations, a silver hand, five to six meters high, stretches for but a few minutes towards Geneva‘s grey skies. This ephemeral work is dismantled as soon as Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri, Qatar’s Attorney General, has finished distributing a series of anti-corruption awards to prominent figures from China, the US, Jordan and Italy. On this day, the soon-to-be 53-year-old francophone with a fine moustache officiates as Chairman of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center (ROLACC), a structure charged with fighting the scourge of “corruption in all its forms”. ROLACC established an office in Geneva in March 2017, in Grand-Saconnex, a town in the canton of Geneva. Having never been better served than by his own, the general secretariat is managed by another family member, Abdulmehsen Hamad Fetais, 32, still a student at the Sorbonne.
For the occasion, the United Nations did not just let the gas-fuelled emirate use one of their rooms. Michael Moeller, Director-General of the United Nations in Geneva, François Longchamp, President of the State Council of Geneva (the head of the cantonal government), and Rémy Pagani, Mayor of the City of Calvin, are all smiles as they participate in the ceremony. Doha knows how to be generous: it has just signed an 18 million euro check for the renovation of a UN building. This award ceremony for the fight against corruption has even received the blessing of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. On site, only the Swiss daily Le Temps asks, a bit gossipy, if this operation is not meant to try to counter suspicions of bribes and vote buying in the football universe. By contrast, Worldnewsmedias.com, a site dedicated to Qatar, bluntly recalls that, according to Transparency International, Qatar’s ranking in the fight against corruption has deteriorated somewhat, falling from 22nd place in 2015 to 31st in 2016. In its December 9, 2017 issue, Worldnewsmedias.com lets loose: these awards are only “one way or another trying to erase, on the magic slate of communication, this hateful image that is now stuck to Qatar – corruption – linked to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup“.
Above all suspicion
Qatar’s Attorney General, who holds the rank of minister, is a man above all suspicion. He is President of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA). He has been appointed Regional Special Advocate for Ill-Gotten Gains. Holder of a doctorate in law awarded by the Sorbonne in 1997, Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri is also a great friend of France – acting as one of the main channels of dialogue between Paris and Doha. Anecdotally, he was suspected – unjustly – of having fathered Rachida Dati‘s daughter Zohra. At one time, the Keeper of the Seals took the flight connecting Paris to the rich, fuelled emirate several times a month. Rachida Dati had even recruited her sister, Najat Dati, “of whom it is unknown if she is an attorney”, to work in the Attorney General’s office. Yet this senior official has managed to climb the hard-earned echelons of the Qatari hierarchy. He comes from the Al Marri Bedouin tribe, whose members usually have to settle for a few positions in the army.
“He has no room for manoeuvre within the seraglio. The Al Marri are not lucky enough to be insiders. The minister is only a sort of super-usher,” summarises Le Vilain Petit Qatar: Cet ami qui nous veut du mal (Little Qatar: This friend who wants to do us harm) by Nicolas Beau and Jacques-Marie Bourget. The book describes him as a low man on the reigning family’s totem pole. “At the request of Doha’s palaces, it is he who judicially executes those who are bothersome, prosecuting them for corruption, which is hardly difficult.” Yet, at intellectual gatherings in Paris and Geneva, Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri assures that he defends the separation of executive and judicial powers “inherited from Montesquieu”.
A 9.6 million euro apartment
Coming from a family that, a priori, is not very wealthy, how did the founder of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center buy himself a three-story mansion at 86 Avenue d’Iéna, just a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, for 9.6 million euros in October 2013? The capital of real estate company IENA 86 is divided into 100 shares, which are owned by Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri (98 shares) and by two of his sons, Hamad Ali, born in 2002 (1 share), and Tameem Ali, born in 2013 (1 share).
“Contrary to popular legend, wages are not extravagant in Qatar’s public service. They rarely exceed $12,000 a month. The Attorney General is probably a little better paid, with a house, company car, driver,” says Emmanuel Razavi, a French journalist who has spent several years in the emirate. He is the author of Qatar, vérités interdites (Qatar, Prohibited Truths) published in 2017. Where does the good fortune of this high-ranking Qatari official come from? On two occasions, one week apart, Le Point asked Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri the question by email. He did not wish to answer. Abdulmehsen Hamad Fetais, Secretary General of ROLACC, also contacted, did not answer our call.
Our questions do not only concern this particular residence; they also relate to the company GSG Immobilier SA in Geneva, created on October 26, 2015. Among the founders? Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri (99,000 shares) who declares – curiously – that he lives in Cologny, an upscale municipality in the canton of Geneva, and Mrs Maha Ali M. A. Fetais (1,000 shares), a student living in Doha. Apparently, the Attorney General prefers to keep business in the family. Especially since GSG Immobilier SA acquired, on November 10, 2015, just a few days after its creation, a property located at 221 route de Ferney in Grand-Saconnex for 3.690 million Swiss francs (3.321 million euros). In other words, the premises of Geneva’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center (ROLACC) belong to its Chairman, Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri. What a curious mixture of genres.
Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri apparently enjoys the climate of Lake Geneva. He acquired a dwelling on the chemin de Bonnevaux in the town of Cologny, a few steps from the shores of the lake, on August 26, 2013 for 7.050 million Swiss francs (6.345 million euros). It is, to say the least, surprising that a Qatari organisation dedicated to the fight against corruption does not have its headquarters on the emirate’s premises. It is also surprising that its chairman has chosen a member of his family to hold the post of Secretary General. “It is, alas, tribal logic. A member of a tribe always places people from his family, including in public service,” says journalist Emmanuel Razavi. Certainly, but is it a very wise thing to do when proposing to advise the rest of the world on ways to fight corruption?