Court convicts two Qatar Foundation employees of soliciting bribe
A judge has sentenced two senior Qatar Foundation (QF) employees to five years in jail and ordered them to jointly pay a QR3 million (US$823,916) fine for requesting a payoff from an insurance company in exchange for renewing its contract with the organization.
This morning’s verdict also orders that Narayan Manugh, an Indian expat who worked as the director of payments and revenue at QF’s financial affairs department, and Faisal Al-Hajiri, a Qatari who served as director of the financial affairs department, be terminated from their positions.
After serving his sentence, Manugh is to be deported from Qatar, the judge said in a brief statement announcing the verdict.
The fine is equivalent to the amount of money Manugh was accused of requesting from the regional manager of a French firm, AXA, in the spring of 2014.
Neither AXA or QF itself were accused of any wrongdoing or charged with any offence.
AXA had provided health and life insurance to QF since 2012. As the company’s contract was about to come up for renewal, Manugh asked AXA’s regional manager for a “gift” to ensure the continuation of their business relationship, court sources previously said.
The insurance company manager, a Lebanese expat, had testified in court that he told Manugh that his firm does not pay bribes. Manugh told him to think about it more, but the manager instead contacted his CEO, who called a QF executive who in turn contacted the police.
Members of Qatar’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) interviewed the insurance company manager and instructed him to continue meeting with his QF client as they planned a sting operation. The manager testified that he was told to insist that Al-Hajiri be present for the handoff.
After a series of meetings, the three men met in the lobby of a high-end hotel at around 10pm on July 14, 2014, under the watch of several undercover police officers. They proceeded to the hotel’s parking lot, where the insurance company manager retrieved a bag containing the money and handed it to Al-Hajiri. At that point, police intervened and made their arrests.
This is at least the fourth bribery case to be heard in a Qatar court this month.
In early June, an Arab expat working as an internal design engineer at Katara Cultural Village was sentenced to three years in jail and fined QR10,000 ($2,747) for demanding and accepting a bribe of QR20,000 ($5,493) from a carpentry firm in exchange for awarding it some work, The Peninsula reported.
Separately, the newspaper also reported that two foreign businessman stand accused of offering a bank credit officer £320,000 (QR1.83 million) in exchange for a guarantee, which can be used in lieu of a deposit to purchase goods from a supplier.
Meanwhile, the Gulf Times reported a new trial has been ordered for engineers accused of bribery related to the awarding of contracts to construct a new expressway. Court sources say the original charges at the heart of this month’s hearing date back to 2006-07.
Despite the concentration of recent cases, Qatar has a reputation for having relatively low levels of overall corruption, according to an international survey.
The country ranked 26th in 2014, compared to 28th the previous year, in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index. That means Qatar’s government continues to be among the most trustworthy in the Middle East, according to the report, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in 175 countries/territories around the world.
Earlier this year, Qatar’s public prosecution’s office launched an advertising campaign urging residents to act as whistleblowers in an effort to encourage Qatar residents to report financial corruption in government organizations, including bribes and embezzlement of public funds.