Eight ex-Indian Navy personnel working in Dahra Global were detained by Qatar’s intelligence agencies last year and are yet to be released.
NEW DELHI: The Doha-based Dahra Global is shutting down with all the Indian nationals employed in the said company being asked to resign. The Indian nationals, the majority of whom are ex-Indian Navy personnel and number around 75, have been told that their last day of work at Dahra will be 31 May. A majority of these Indian nationals will have to come back to India because of employment terms and conditions and rules related to work visa that are applicable in Qatar.
Dahra Global has been in the eye of the storm since August last year after eight ex-Indian Navy personnel, working with the said company in senior positions, were detained by Qatar’s intelligence agencies. These eight Indian nationals, too, have been sacked by Dahra. The next hearing in the case is on 3 May during which it is expected that the charges under which they have been held will be revealed. The Government of India and the family members of the eight Indian nationals have replaced their previous legal team of “Office of Majid Al Hajri” with the law firm of “Ahmad Ali Al Hal”. This happened after reports emerged that the previous law firm was showing “incompetency” in representing the interest of the Indian nationals.
Sources aware of the developments said, a new company called the “Advanced Services and Maintenance (ASM)”, whose website is https://www.advanced-sm.com/home, is in the process of taking over all the assets owned by Dahra, including office buildings, contracts and non-Indian employees.
Oman-based sources told The Sunday Guardian that Khamis Al Ajmi, a retired squadron leader of Royal Oman Air Force and who till now is CEO of Dahra, is the man behind ASM. Ajmi, too, was arrested by the Qatar intelligence agency along with the eight Indian nationals, but was freed in November last year.
The new set-up of ASM, that will replace Dahra, is being executed by two French nationals who are right now looking at the existing operational details that Dahra has been executing for the Qatar government. All the Indian nationals, except the interim-CEO will be leaving Doha by 31 May, as only the interim CEO has been allowed to stay back to assist the lawyers of the company.
The Indian nationals, sources told The Sunday Guardian, have been told that they were no longer needed as Dahra’s contract with the Qatar navy, which was till 2029, has been cancelled post the incident in last year’s August. Sources said that the Indian nationals were intimated of their continuance in the company not being feasible at two different stages, first on 1 April and then on 15 April.
It is in this context that ASM has been brought into existence. The new company will have British, French and Omani nationals train the Qatar navy in place of the Indian nationals who for years were training officials of Qatar navy.
Interestingly, the website of Dahra, which had stopped functioning since August is now up, a development that has taken place in the last few days. Dahra, on its website claims to be a “a highly specialized provider of complete Support Solutions to the Aerospace, Security, Defense, Information Technology & Communications sectors. We support the GCC countries and beyond with customized support and turnkey solutions; offering systems, equipment, spare-parts and repair services to a broad range of customers”.
According to a media report, the eight Indian nationals were allegedly spying on a submarine project that the Qatar navy was working on for the last few years. The spying allegation has been vehemently denied by their family members, who are based in India and Qatar. The Sunday Guardian reached out to the Italian naval ship manufacturing company, Fincantieri, that as per media reports, is manufacturing these “super-secret” submarines for Qatar.
The spokesperson of Fincantieri company told The Sunday Guardian that it was not manufacturing any submarine or any underwater vessel in any form for the Qatar government. “Regarding the Qatari program, there are no submarines in the contract signed back in 2016, and there is no project of this kind ongoing. Having said this, the contract, amounting for Fincantieri to approx. 4 billion euros, envisaged the supply of seven surface vessels, of which four corvettes of over 100 meters in length, one amphibious vessel (LPD-Landing Platform Dock), and two patrol vessels (OPV-Offshore Patrol Vessel) as well as support services in Qatar for further 15 years after the delivery of the vessels. All the units will be entirely built in Fincantieri Italian shipyards starting from 2018, ensuring six years of work and an important impact on the main Italian defense companies. So far, Fincantieri has delivered three corvettes and two patrol vessels to the Qatari Navy. Two vessels are, therefore, still under construction at our yards,” the spokesperson said while stating that “neither Fincantieri, nor any of its subsidiaries, is building or has built submarines for the Qatari Navy.”
As per legal requirements, Fincantieri, which is a listed company in Milan, Italy, is required to share all contract details with its shareholders and market regulators. Relevant legal documents accessed by The Sunday Guardian showed no announcement or declaration of any such submarine building contracts with Qatar.
Fincantieri also operates two subsidiaries in India, Fincantieri India Private Limited and Vard Electrical Installation and Engineering (India). In October 2020, it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL).
This was after the two entities had entered into contracts for the design and integration of the unit’s engine system, as well as for the supply of complementary services of Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikrant. Fincantieri had earlier delivered the two fleet tankers “Deepak” (commissioned in January 2011) and “Shakti” (October 2011) to the Indian Navy, in addition to the research vessel “Sagar Nidhi” (October 2010) built for the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
The Group has 18 shipyards operating in four continents, nearly 20,000 employees; its clients include some of the world’s biggest cruise operators and the Italian and the US navies as well as numerous foreign navies. Fincantieri is also a partner of multiple European defence companies. In January 2020, Fincantieri and the Ministry of Defence of Qatar, through Barzan Holding, a company wholly owned by the Qatari Ministry of Defense, had signed an MoU to handle the design, construction and management of the naval base, warship fleet management, the application of new technologies such as digital radar and cyber-security, as well as the supply of cutting-edge naval vessels and submarines. However, sources confirmed to this newspaper that this MoU was never implemented.