Two high-ranking Qatar Foundation (QF) employees accused of soliciting a bribe in exchange for renewing an insurance company’s contract began court proceedings this month, with police officers describing a sting operation used to catch the two men.
The director of payments and revenue at QF’s financial affairs department is alleged to have requested a “gift” from the regional manager of a French firm, AXA, in the spring of 2014. The company had previously provided health and life insurance to QF since 2012.
QF and AXA are not accused of any wrongdoing, and neither organization has not been charged.
According to court sources, the insurance company manager testified that the QF employee, an Indian expat, first raised the subject following a meeting at a local coffee shop.
That was followed by another meeting in April 2014 at an Indian restaurant in Dafna, during which the QF employee asked for QR2 million (US$549,587) to facilitate the contract’s renewal.
The insurance company manager, a Lebanese expat, said that in both instances, he told the other man that his firm does not pay bribes.
“We’re an international company. Our expenses are audited. Nothing gets by,” he said in court.
The man testified that the QF employee encouraged him to think about the offer. Instead, he told his CEO, who called a QF executive who in turn contacted the police.
Members of Qatar’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) interviewed the insurance company manager and instructed him to continue meeting with his QF contact under their clandestine supervision.
The insurance manager was also told to insist that the QF employee’s boss, a Qatari who served as director of the financial affairs department, be present for the transaction.
The three men met at a coffee shop in the Pearl-Qatar in 2014 to finalize the arrangement in a conversation that was recorded by police. By this point, the QF employees had increased their requested amount to QR3 million ($824,335).
They then met in the lobby of a high-end hotel around 10pm on July 14, 2014 while being watched by undercover police officers. When they proceeded to the parking lot where the insurance company employee took a bag containing the money and handed it to the Qatari director, the police intervened and arrested the two men.
This is at least the second bribery attempt in Qatar in recent years that has been disrupted by a CID sting operation.
Last year, a Syrian woman was convicted of trying to bribe a Civil Defense officer in Qatar in return for a commercial building safety certificate.
Her lawyer appealed the verdict and argued that the authorities entrapped the woman and encouraged her to offer the payment.
Despite the two cases, Qatar has relatively low levels of overall corruption, according to an international survey.
The latest Corruption Perceptions Index shows the country coming in at 26th in 2014, compared to 28th the previous year.
That means Qatar’s government continues to be among the most trustworthy in the Middle East, according to the report, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in 175 countries/territories around the world.