Qatar’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, the youngest brother of Qatar’s current Emir, broke the rules and potentially committed a crime while a student at the University of Southern California (USC), according to an investigative report by the Los Angeles Times.
The report, published under the title “The true story of the heartthrob prince of Qatar and his time at USC,” went viral on Thursday after it revealed Sheikh Khalifa tried to bribe his way into a university, often missed classes, spent time gambling in Las Vegas, and was potentially involved in a federal crime linked to buying a human organ.
LA Times reporters spoke to former employees, USC professors and deans, and a person claiming to be a “sherpa” or guide whom the Qatari sheikh paid to help him gain his bachelor’s degree.
‘His Highness doesn’t like to hear no’
Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, born November 1, 1991, is the youngest son of Qatar’s former emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa and his second wife Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. He is the brother of the current Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
He had initially moved to California in 2011 where he began his undergraduate career at L.A. Mission College, a community college that has an overwhelmingly Latino and low-income student body.
Sometime after his freshman year, the sheikh’s royal entourage had approached the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where they met with Alessandro Duranti, who was then the dean of social sciences at the university. They met Duranti for a meeting to discuss al-Thani’s possible admission at UCLA bearing with them “a set of golden camel statues and a few other gifts.”
“I told them repeatedly that first of all, as a dean, I did not handle admissions at all; and that we cannot admit somebody because of some special status,” Duranti told the LA Times.
According to Duranti, al-Thani’s entourage had pushed for an hour and that he recalled one of them telling him that “His Highness doesn’t like to hear ‘no.’”
Al-Thani then refocused his efforts to USC where he would eventually transfer to study political science.
“Once classes began, Al Thani displayed little enthusiasm for his studies, according to people who worked for him. He spent much of the day in his suite at the hotel, playing video games with his entourage and working out with a trainer, former employees said,” the LA Times investigative report read.
Despite rarely attending classes, the royal made the dean’s list three times during his degree.
Did Sheikh Khalifa outsource his degree?
The report attributed Sheikh Khalifa’s academic success to Juvenal Cortes, a graduate student at USC who quickly took on the role of meeting with the prince’s professors to discuss attendance exemptions and his grade expectations for the semester.
During a meeting with the dean of USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Steven Lamy, Cortes said that he was working for Sheikh Khalifa “to make extra money.”
Cortes often arranged meetings with professors on behalf of the sheikh to inform them that the royal would not be attending classes due to “security reasons.”
“He was acting as a sort of guide [or] sherpa for this emir’s son,” Lamy told the LA times.
At least eight employees at the Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car, which often rented out cars to the royal and arranged luxurious trips, said that a partner and others working in the company had said that an unnamed person was being paid to do the prince’s schoolwork.
Former employees told the LA Times that the company billed Qatar for the cost of a Mercedes SUV as a way to partially compensate the person.
But David Sajasi – the partner who oversaw Sheikh Khalifa’s account – denied their statements, saying “People that have worked in lower jobs make things up because they are juicy.”
A professor told the LA Times that the prince had a chauffeur deliver him his final paper in a bag alongside a Rolex watch.
Despite giving back the watch and telling Sheikh Khalifa that it was “completely unacceptable,” the chauffer returned a year later with the gift.
Sheikh Khalifa, known for his love for luxury sports cars, currently has an active warrant for his arrest in Los Angeles for reckless driving.
In 2014, the prince and a group of his entourage were given a citation for speeding down a freeway after they returned from a trip to Las Vegas, the article reported.
Sheikh Khalifa was only given a citation, but after failing to attend his arraignment, a warrant for his arrest was issued.
But the speeding ticket was not the only crime the Qatari royal was reportedly involved during his time at USC.
When a member of Sheikh Khalifa’s entourage needed a kidney transplant in 2014 after falling ill due to heavy usage of steroids, the prince funded the operation.
Mado Khaled, a competitive bodybuilder from Lebanon who had traveled to LA to work for Al Thani, received the kidney from a man who was brought in from Egypt.
Throughout the process, Khaled had shared several images on his Instagram page with his doctor at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as well as of Sheikh Khalifa.
“I’ll never forget the help and the support. Not today, not tomorrow and not even in a thousand year. Thanks God and thanks for sheik Khalifa bin Hamad al Thani,” Khaled wrote in a 2014 Instagram post of the prince.
The surgery, paid for by Qatar, was the only transplant operation in which a noncitizen received a kidney from a nonrelative conducted at the hospital that year, federal records obtained by the LA Times showed.
In the US, where transplants are heavily regulated and patients often wait for years before finding a viable donor, paying for an organ is a federal crime.
When asked whether the prince played a role in the transplant, Sheikh Khalifa’s lawyer David G. Keyko refused to answer questions and said the allegations were “a serious allegation which appears to be unfounded and lacking in both evidence and connection to our client.”
The Qatari government has not answered the LA Times’ request for an interview with the prince.
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