A new Wikileaks cable shows that in 2008, Qatar angered oil companies by asking for $1 billion in donations for its new Sidra Medical Center.
Qatar is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of GDP, according to the IMF. And Sidra, which is due to open next year, already has a $7.9 billion endowment from the Qatar Foundation – the world’s largest endowment for a medical and research center.
So why the baffling request, which some companies said could breach international corruption laws?
It could be that Qatar wants everyone to have a stake in its upcoming world-class facility, thus bolstering its credibility. But Reuters, which broke the story, calls it a “badly miscalculated” gaffe:
“Qatar will soon — literally — have more money than it knows what to do with,” according to the U.S. cable from Sept. 2008, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters.
Despite this, the country’s energy ministry requested at least $1.0 billion and possibly as much as $1.7 billion in donations from companies doing business with Qatar Petroleum to support construction of the new medical centre, the cable said.
Letters signed by Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah gave specific amounts for the size of donation it was requesting, ranging from $280 million each for Exxon and A.P. Moller-Maersk to $80 million for smaller players like Total.
Other oil companies approached included ConocoPhillips, Occidental and Q-Chem, as well as Microsoft and General Electric.
“The IOCs (international oil companies) are shocked and angered by the request,” the cable stated. “None of the U.S. IOCs are considering donations … and they are aware the perception of a quid pro quo could be construed as violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
What do you think? Why would Qatar possibly ask anyone for money?