Qatari Emir’s brother withheld wages, drugged workers, bought supercar: US lawsuit

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Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, the brother of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim, repeatedly refused to pay employees their contractual salaries while making staff work excessive hours and using money set aside for his racing team to purchase personal items, including a Bugatti Veyron supercar, according to a new lawsuit.

The explosive 137-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday, leveled a number of accusations against Sheikh Khalid, including that he beat his wife’s driver to death, attempted to spy on senior members of royal families across the Arabian Gulf, and repeatedly threatened to murder employees.

The plaintiffs also accused Sheikh Khalid of asking employees to deliberately “pad” budgets, sometimes doubling, tripling or quadrupling the budget, so that the Sheikh could purchase personal items, including a Bugatti Veyron supercar. In his first three years of racing and building teams, Sheikh Khalid spent more than $100 million, the lawsuit says.

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Despite this system of excess, the lawsuit alleges that employees were regularly not paid on time. When questioned why it was that employees were not being paid on time, Sheikh Khalid would say that they were being “taken care of” in different ways.

“Defendants continuously engaged in a conspiracy to withhold wages so as not to have to pay Plaintiffs to continue building a racing empire that he could not financially afford,” the lawsuit said.

At one point, despite refusing to pay contractual salary and bonuses, Sheikh Khalid asked one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Robert Von Smith, to return a $500 race bonus he had earned from an outside sponsor “because the team needed it.”

Smith, went his first five months of employment without pay, the lawsuit said. Al Anabi, Sheikh Khalid’s racing team, further tried to reduce his compensation following the group’s first US-based win in October 2008.

Plaintiff Terry Hope, an employee at Al Anabi, described a similar system whereby promises were broken regarding compensation, with working hours continually expanding as employees were expected to be at Sheikh Khalid’s call 24/7 with no time off allowed.

Smith, who further went on to win the team’s first Middle East win, and another 12 races between 2008 and 2009, suffered a serious accident in April 2009. After crashing, Smith was taken to the Al-Ahli hospital in Doha, Qatar, the suit says.

Sheikh Khalid decided on the hospital, and dictated the medical care that Smith would receive. When Smith, who was awake and conscious, according to the lawsuit, tried to make decisions on how he would be treated, Sheikh Khalid “silenced” him.

In another example, Sheikh Khalid drugged Hope with an unknown substance in 2013, the lawsuit says.

Hope had told Sheikh Khalid he was feeling ill, to which Sheikh Khalid procured three to four pills and instructed Hope to tell them, Sheikh Khalid assured him that the pills were harmless. After taking the pills, Hope immediately became seriously ill and was rushed to hospital.

Sheikh Khalid’s team would then instruct Hope be moved to a different hospital and was similarly not allowed to take any decisions on his medical care, at the behest of Sheikh Khalid.

Hope, fearing retaliation from Sheikh Khalid due to his hospitalization, and believing that his organs were going to be harvested against his will, left the hospital after being held for three days. He would go on to remain trapped in Qatar for two months after the hospitalization, unable to leave.

Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani. (File photo)
Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani. (File photo)

Deliberately lose the race

In 2011, Sheikh Khalid would ask Smith and Hope to deliberately lose a race to allow another member of the team to win. Smith and Hope both refused.

Smith was again asked to throw another race in 2012, which he again refused.

Al Anabi would disband in 2014 before Sheikh Khalid returned to motorsports in 2016.

Smith was approached to once again work for the team, with a new contract promising that he would only race in the US. Al Anabi would later refuse to honor this contract.

Despite agreeing on a salary of $75,000, the team refused to pay Smith any more than $40,000, the lawsuit says.

Furthermore, Sheikh Khalid began to insist that Smith travel to Qatar and drive his car, to which Smith refused, stating that his contract meant he did not need to travel abroad, and that should Sheikh Khalid wish this then a salary increase would be required. The move incensed Sheikh Khalid.

“Nice knowing you motherf*cker,” Sheikh Khalid said to Smith, the lawsuit says.

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