Do Qataris finance Hezbollah?
A secret dossier that is circulating in Berlin and is for sale burdens rich Qatarians. A lobby company plays a dubious role here.
The world of secret services, private agents and string pullers is usually hidden from the public. The curtain rarely rises a bit and allows intimate insights. Such a case is currently taking place: between Berlin, Brussels and the Qatar capital Doha. It's about money and big politics, the arms trade and terrorism. And last but not least, a question of morality: How far can a respected German PR agency go in its business?
The story begins with Jason G. *, a private contractor who repeatedly works for various security agencies and intelligence agencies, runs his own small company, and has taken his missions halfway around the world, including to Doha. Qatar, a small, rich emirate on the Persian Gulf that plans to host the World Cup in two years, is an astonishingly active player in the shadow world of secret services and has been repeatedly criticized for allegedly supporting Islamist groups.
In Doha, G. came across some unsavory information. There was an alleged arm deal with war material from Eastern Europe that was supposed to be handled by a company in Qatar. And there were alleged money flows from several rich Qatarians and exiled Lebanese people from Doha to Hezbollah - the organization that is part of the government in Lebanon but is internationally outlawed as a terrorist organization and has been banned in Germany since April. The donations are said to have been processed with the knowledge of influential government officials through a charity organization in Doha.
This resulted in a thick dossier with compromising material, which ZEIT was able to see in parts and which is somewhat explosive: Israel and the USA have long been trying to dry out Hezbollah. Concrete evidence that money is flowing from the Gulf to terrorist groups would increase pressure on Qatar and may lead to sanctions. So what to do with the dossier?
At the end of 2017 Jason G. met a lawyer who was very well networked in German politics, who in turn introduced him to the Berlin political consultant Michael Inacker. Inacker has been working for the consulting firm WMP since 2014 and has been the chairman of the board since 2015. Previously, he had been switching between the world of media and corporations for years, he worked for the FAZ, was a member of the editorial boards of Handelsblatt and Wirtschaftswoche, which, like ZEIT, belongs to the Holtzbrinck publishing house, worked for DaimlerChrysler and for Metro AG. Inacker is a heavyweight in the industry. "Communication is the condition of all battles," says the founder of the company, Hans-Hermann Tiedje, ex-boss, on the WMP website: "Whoever convinces wins!"
The secret file could be worth up to ten million euros
Jason G. presented the incriminating material from Doha to both the lawyer and Inacker. The question was how much could be redeemed with such a dossier. The estimates ranged up to ten million euros. This is "possibly the (target) amount that the informant himself or his lawyer hoped for from a sale," said Inacker today. He found the material "potentially important for combating the financing of Islamist terrorism", which is why he helped to establish contact with German security authorities "in order to have an assessment carried out there". The process went right up to the top floor of the services. The German experts should assess the informant and its history. The result: potentially interesting, potentially relevant.
Potential business revenues, as provided for in several contracts and agreements, should be divided. For a few months it seemed like several men could get rich.
But who is most interested in buying up the delicate dossier? Qatar's opponents? Or maybe even the emirate itself, which could have a vital need to make the allegedly compromising information disappear?
By Yassin Musharbash and Holger Stark, July 17, 2020, publish on ZEIT (in German)