Till now there is no clarity on why eight Indians have been detained by Doha.
NEW DELHI: On 18 May, the Qatar government is likely to present its charges against the eight Indian nationals who have been in detention since August last year.
Till now, neither the Qatar government, nor the Indian government has shared the details about the allegations under which they have been kept under detention; however, as per unsubstantiated media reports, they were allegedly trying to get details about a submarine project that Qatar navy is working on.
As per these media reports, one of the companies that was a part of this Qatari submarine project is Italian naval ship manufacturing company, Fincantieri. However, as reported by this newspaper earlier (Qatar’s Dahra Global is downing shutters, Indians asked to quit), Fincantieri has categorically denied manufacturing any submarine or any underwater vessel in any form for the Qatar government.
With Fincantieri out of the picture, as per the investigation carried out by The Sunday Guardian, it is likely that a Qatari defence entity, alongwith two other Italian companies, might be behind this entire fiasco that has led to the solitary confinement for the Indian nationals, all ex-Indian Navy officials who were working for “Dahra Global”.
This entire saga is about a maze of companies and cross holdings that stretches from Doha to Milan involving influential members of the Qatari rulers and their close associates. In 2019, “Cabi Cattaneo”, an Italian ship making company got a contract of 190 million euros from the Qatar navy to make two midget submarines for the Gulf country.
This project, as per sources aware of the matter, was being executed with the help of another Italian ship-making company, “M23”, which is a part of another Italian ship maker, “GSE Trieste”.
The top leadership of M23, as per details gathered by this newspaper, among others includes Toufic Abi Fadel, who enjoys closeness with the Qatari ruling family and is right now the legal head of “Barzan Holdings” a Doha-based Qatari government entity which is a part of the Qatar defence ministry that was brought into existence in March 2018 to focus on empowering the capabilities of the Qatari military.
The chairman of Barzan Holdings is Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, who is also the Minister of State for Defence of Qatar. According to him, Barzan Holdings’ main objective is to meet Qatar’s long-term defence and security needs.
In simple words, Barzan Holding ensures Qatar’s spending on defence needs are monitored at every level. This is also done, as is evident in the present case, by appointing someone from its own organization in the decision-making body of the foreign company that gets the defence contract.
Sources have told The Sunday Guardian that the acquisition of these submarines on behalf of Qatar navy is being done by a Doha-based Limited Liability Company, “Al-Shamal 3” which is headed by Barzan Holdings chief executive Nasser Hassan Al Naimi who has also invested significantly in “M23”.
All the above said transactions were completed by May 2020. Naimi has been described in official documents as “Chief of investment, Research and Development at Qatar’s defence of Ministry”. It can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the presence of Toufic Abi Fadel, the legal head of Barzan in a leadership position in “M23”, is to also take care of the financial investment made by Al Naimi. Incidentally, Al-Shamal also has a stake in Britain’s military jet developer, “Aeralis”.
The Sunday Guardian has reached out to Cabi Cattaneo, its CEO Alberto Villa, GSE Trieste and Barzan Holdings seeking their response on the nature of collaboration between them and the status of the submarines in question.
No response was received from any of them till this report went to print.It is not clear till now as to how and in what capacity, if any, were the employees of Dahra Global, including the eight Indians, working on these two midget submarines. Dahra, which is shutting down, used to work closely with the Qatar navy in the field of training and consultancy.
Two Qatar-based sources who are following these developments told The Sunday Guardian that Dahra Global was not working on the submarine projects. The defence sector in the Gulf is rife with speculation that Dahra, which is owned by an Omani national, has become a casualty in a corporate battle being waged by multiple countries to get Qatari defence contracts. Members of the Qatari royal family are supporting one or the other groups, as details shared above suggest.
Since 2018, when Qatar started entering into overt and covert arms contracts with global companies, Doha has become a battleground for business rivalries, with each entity trying to push the other out of the arena by using any means possible.