With the help of leaked documents and witness accounts, Mediapart reveals the inside story on the United Arab Emirates' strategy to influence opinion in France, an operation involving private intelligence gathering and the manipulation of information . The story features an Emirati intelligence agent, a private intelligence agency in Switzerland, academics and two well-known French journalists. Another name that also crops up is that of President Emmanuel Macron's former bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget investigate.
Belgian judge Michel Claise is leading the investigation into the snowballing corruption scandal rocking the European Parliament in Brussels, and which has already led to the downfall and imprisonment of a now former vice president of the chamber. In this interview with Mediapart, the veteran investigating magistrate, specialised in financial crime, details the extent to which corruption and organised crime are out of control in Europe, and slams the lack of resources to fight it. “When you touch on dirty money, and when that involves the political world, people become transformed into wild animals,” he says.
Revelations in the so-called “Qatargate” corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament this month, involving past and present members of the chamber, including its former vice-president, are snowballing. While the Belgian authorities continue investigations into those implicated in an alleged Qatari slush-fund used to buy favours from EU lawmakers, MEPs have suspended all legislative work in connection with Qatar, and withdrawn access to the institution by the Gulf State’s representatives. But they shied from including Morocco in the sanctions, despite growing evidence of its involvement in the influence peddling. Mediapart's European affairs correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.
It is the latest development in a complex affair involving the French football club Paris Saint-Germain, the state of Qatar, a lobbyist, a former French intelligence agent and accusations of illicit espionage. The lobbyist in question, Franco-Algerian businessman Tayeb Benabderrahmane, was arrested and detained for several months in Doha in 2020 after having obtained confidential information belonging to the PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi. Tayeb Benabderrahmane was later able to leave Qatar after reportedly signing a secret agreement and handing over all the information he possessed. However, according to a document seen by Mediapart, the lobbyist had kept hold of some of the confidential information on the PSG boss and wanted to ask for 100 million euros from the emirate, who own PSG, in return for his silence. Tayeb Benabderrahmane, who faces separate allegations involving private and illicit investigations on behalf of the football club, denies all the claims. Yann Philippin reports.
The 2022 World Cup, steeped in controversy, finally opened in Qatar on Sunday. All of those who, through multiple dealings and arrangements, accepted or promoted its hosting by the Gulf state, have an enormous amount to answer for over their responsibility for the consequences, notably the deaths of thousands of migrant construction workers, an environmental disaster and political scandal. Michaël Hajdenberg presents a brief analysis of what we know of the dark background to the tournament.
Forced labour, working without pay, excessive working hours in sweltering heat ... despite several reforms brought in by the emirate's authorities under pressure from human rights groups, the migrant labourers working flat-out to ensure the gas-rich state of Qatar is ready to host November's World Cup finals are still enduring appalling conditions. Rachida El Azzouzi reports from Doha on the plight of the workers just two months before the tournament kicks off.
With its signing of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi this summer, and its money-no-object refusal to agree the 180-million-euro transfer to Real Madrid of its French star forward Kylian Mbappé, football club Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners, apparently immune to the financial effects of the Covid-19 crisis, once again demonstrated their unbridled ambitions in diplomacy through sport. As Jérôme Latta reports, the backdrop is the ever more deregulated structure of European football.
In an ongoing judicial investigation in France into suspected corruption surrounding the awarding of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar, evidence seized at the Paris offices of US firm Colony Capital suggests a well-remunerated post handed to Laurent Platini, son of former football star and UEFA president Michel Platini, by Qatari sovereign fund QSI may have been linked to its purchase of French football club PSG. The probe is focused on a crucial lunch meeting at the Élysée Palace in 2010 hosted by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and attended among others by Michel Platini and the then crown prince of Qatar. Yann Philippin unravels a complex case involving heads of state, business, diplomacy and arrangements behind closed doors.
Ali Benarbia, the former Manchester City and Monaco player who became a prominent television sports pundit on French television and radio, has been told to pay back taxes of just under 4 million euros by the French tax authorities. Mediapart has learnt that the former Algerian international was paid via a fictitious company in Qatar and claimed to be living in the Middle Eastern country. In fact, he and his family were resident in Paris, tax investigators found. Yann Philippin and Matthieu Suc report.
Shortly after a committee of world football governing body FIFA in February 2015 controversially recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be played in winter, the then FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke secretly met with Qatari businessman Nasser al-Khelaifi, president of French football club PSG and chairman of beIN Sports, who was thanked by Valcke hours later for a gift of a watch worth 40,000 euros, according to phone text messages revealed here by Mediapart. Al-Khelaifi denies he was behind the gift. Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, have dropped their probe of the two men over suspected bribery, which included Valcke’s free use of a luxurious villa bought by al-Khelaifi in Sardinia. Yann Philippin reports.
In June 2019 Michel Platini, the former head of European football's governing body UEFA, was interviewed by police as a witness over the circumstances of the award of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar. Two former colleagues of Nicolas Sarkozy were also questioned about a lunch hosted for Qatar's crown prince by the French president in 2010, attended by Platini, just days before the controversial vote to give the tournament to the oil and gas-rich state. Now the French financial crimes prosecution unit has launched a judicial investigation into the affair over alleged “corruption”, Mediapart has learnt. Former French football star Platini has strongly denied any wrongdoing. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.
Qatar promised 37.5 million dollars to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) just hours before it won the right to stage the 2019 World Athletics Championships was awarded. Some 4.5 million of this was due to be paid to the son of the IAAF president at the time, Papa Massata Diack. The IAAF says that in the end that money was never paid to Diack. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report on the background to the awarding of the prestigious event now taking place at Doha in Qatar –and where the athletes have been sweltering in the heat.
In a confidential letter seen by Mediapart and the British daily newspaper The Guardian, the president of leading French football club PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, requested the payment of a 2-million-euro commission to the agent of Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore in relation to the latter's transfer. The request was apparently made on the instructions of the current Emir of Qatar. If carried out, such a payment appears to breach both French football transfer regulations and the law. A company run by Al-Khelaifi's brother also asked for 200,000 dollars in 'expenses' over the transfer. Yann Philippin reports.
Confidential documents seen by Mediapart and British daily The Guardian suggest that the chief of staff of Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was involved in negotiating payments that are suspected by a French judicial probe of being used in a corruption plot for the attribution of the World Championships of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It also suggests that Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman and CEO of BeIN Sport media group and president of French football club PSG, played a greater role in the alleged plot than he has hitherto told the French judicial investigation. Yann Philippin reports.
Former UEFA boss Michel Platini was held in custody by anti-corruption police in Paris on Tuesday questioning, along with a former advisor to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and Sarkozy's close aide and former minister Claude Guéant, as part of investigations into the controversial attribution to Qatar of the 2022 football World Cup in a vote by FIFA officials in 2010.
by La rédaction de Mediapart
Directeur de la publication : Edwy Plenel
Direction éditoriale : Stéphane Alliès et Carine Fouteau
Le journal MEDIAPART est édité par la Société Editrice de Mediapart (SAS).
Durée de la société : quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans à compter du 24 octobre 2007.
Actionnaires directs et indirects : Société pour l’Indépendance de Mediapart, Fonds pour une Presse Libre, Association pour le droit de savoir
Rédaction et administration : 127 avenue Ledru-Rollin, 75011 Paris
Courriel : email@example.com
Téléphone : + 33 (0) 1 44 68 99 08
Propriétaire, éditeur, imprimeur : Société Editrice de Mediapart
Abonnement : pour toute information, question ou conseil, le service abonnés de Mediapart peut être contacté par courriel à l’adresse : firstname.lastname@example.org ou par courrier à l'adresse : Service abonnés Mediapart, 11 place Charles de Gaulle 86000 Poitiers. Vous pouvez également adresser vos courriers à Société Editrice de Mediapart, 127 avenue Ledru-Rollin, 75011 Paris.