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Sunday, June 20, 2021

US police investigating prominent Qatari over reckless driving incident

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LA racing cars
Racing cars

The owner of a yellow Ferrari that was recklessly driven through a wealthy California neighborhood this week has been identified by police as Sheikh Khalid Hamad Al Thani, owner of Qatar’s Al-Anabi drag-racing team.

During a press conference yesterday, Beverly Hills police said Al Thani, who is in his late 20s, had initially claimed diplomatic immunity when questioned by officers on Saturday, Sept. 12.

On that day, neighbors complained about a yellow Ferrari and a white Porsche racing on residential streets at high speeds and zooming past a stop sign.

Footage taken of the incident also showed smoke rising from the engine of the Ferrari, and the driver pulling into a home in the neighborhood.

Warning: Profanity can be heard in this video.

The racing footage was picked up by TV stations in Los Angeles and has since gone viral, garnering more than 1 million views on YouTube in the past six days.

When neighbors complained to the police, officers visited the house where the vehicles were parked. At that time, Al Thani apparently told them that the cars belonged to him and denied driving recklessly.

In a statement, police said:

“Officers were unable to make any arrests or issue citations at the time of the incident because they did not witness the incident nor did any violations occur in their presence, and none of the witnesses were willing to make a private person’s arrest. Per California State Law, misdemeanor crimes need to be witnessed by an officer to affect an arrest or issue citation.”

Immunity question

People who have diplomatic immunity are typically not susceptible to lawsuits or prosecution under the host country’s laws, although they can still be ejected from that nation.

Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani
Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani

However, after conferring with the US State Department and Qatar consulate, police concluded that Al Thani does not appear to have immunity, the LA Times reports.

Falsely claiming to have diplomatic status in such circumstances is a federal crime, Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti said, as quoted by Reuters.

Additionally, the Ferrari was not registered with the State Department to be brought into the country, the newswire said.

Though police said they may seek to press charges against the racers, they added that Al Thani has since left the US.

Officers are now asking the public’s help in identifying the drivers of the two vehicles and request that any additional video footage of the incident be submitted.

The police statement continued:

“Our officers are on the alert for the vehicles seen in the video, and are prepared to take enforcement action including issuing traffic citations, impounding the vehicles and arresting individuals when appropriate. We have stepped up enforcement for reckless activity in the neighborhood where the incident took place.”

Road nuisance

This is the most recent in a series of high-profile incidents in which young Qatari and Khaleeji men have been criticized for driving inappropriately.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, this summer, the London district that houses Qatar-owned department store Harrods announced plans to take action against the noise and inconvenience caused by supercars in the area.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said it planed to introduce a Public Space Protection Order that would make it illegal to rev engines; perform stunts in a car; sound horns (that cause a public nuisance); play music loudly from a car; and to cause obstruction on a public road, such as parking illegally, among other things.

Closer to home, residents of the Pearl-Qatar continue to complain about late-night joy riders who rev their engines and keep many people awake at night.

UDC, which operates the Pearl, promised to tackle the longstanding problem in 2013, but reports of incidents continue.

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