Qatar – Financing Hezbollah?

The world of secret services, private agents and pulling cords usually remains hidden from the public. The curtain rarely rises a bit and allows intimate glimpses. One such case is currently taking place between Berlin, Brussels and the Qatari 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 services, running his own small company and whose operations have taken him halfway around the world, including Doha, Qatar. The small, rich emirate on the Persian Gulf wants to host the soccer World Cup in next year, is an astonishingly bustling player in the shadowy world of the secret services and is repeatedly criticized for its alleged support for Islamist groups.

In Doha, G. came across some unsavory information. There was an alleged arms deal with war material from Eastern Europe, which was supposedly going through a company in Qatar. And there were alleged flows of money from several rich Qataris and exiled Lebanese 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. With the knowledge of influential government officials, the donations are said to have been processed through a charity organization in Doha.

The result was a thick dossier with compromising material and quite explosive: Israel and the US have long been trying to dry up Hezbollah. Concrete evidence that money is flowing from the Gulf to terrorist groups would increase the pressure on Qatar and possibly lead to sanctions. So what to do with the dossier?

At the end of 2017, Jason G. met a lawyer who is well connected in German politics, who in turn introduced him to the Berlin political advisor Michael Inacker. Inacker has been working for the consulting company WMP since 2014, and has been chairman of the board since 2015. Before that, he switched for years between the world of media and corporations: he worked for the German newspaper FAZ, was a member of the editors-in-chief of Handelsblatt and Wirtschaftswoche, worked for DaimlerChrysler and at Metro AG. Inacker is a heavyweight in the industry. “Communication is the condition of all battles”, emblazoned as a quote from founder Hans-Hermann Tiedje, ex-Bild boss, on the WMP website: “If you convince, you win!”

The secret dossier 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 one redeem 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,” says Inacker today. To him, the material “seemed to be potentially important for the fight against the financing of Islamist terror,” which is why he helped establish contact with German security authorities “in order to have an assessment carried out there.” The process went right up to the top floors of the service. The German experts were supposed to assess the informant and his story. The result: potentially interesting, potentially relevant.

Possible business income, as provided by 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 opponent? Or maybe even the emirate itself, which could have a vital need to make the allegedly compromising information disappear?

WMP arranges meetings with Qatari diplomats

So it was a good fit that WMP had previously worked for the emirate and Inacker is known to have a top Qatari diplomat in his circle. He admits that he had “given Qatari representatives” a “reference to the informant.” It was about “transparency and the fight against certain critical, anti-Israeli networks”. At the beginning of 2019 in Brussels, Inacker, Jason G. and the Qatari diplomat had lunch to discuss the details.

According to Jason G., through Inacker’s mediation, there were half a dozen meetings between G. and the Qatari diplomat. One is glad that G. is ready to help “clean up” in his own country, the top diplomat said, at least that is how G. wants to remind him. One wants to use the information from the dossier to pull “dodgy characters in their own ranks” out of circulation. According to G., ugly remarks were also made about Israel: At one of the meetings, the diplomat said that they had learned from the ground up that the Jews were their enemies. At least that’s how G. claims to have heard it.

At the meetings, he received 10,000 euros in cash several times, G. claims. In the following months, the Qataris handed him an additional 100,000 euros. There is no written evidence for this.

At the beginning of July 2019, Jason G. and the Qataris signed a deal with a Memorandum of Understanding. As a consultant, G. received 10,000 euros per month for one year. The Qataris also undertake not to prosecute G. for espionage and not to share his information with other countries. G. says he gave the Qataris names of donors and supporters, including that of an influential general. The Qatari Armed Forces, the Qatari army, maintained contact with him. That the contract exists and has a term of one year was also confirmed by G.’s new Berlin lawyer, whom he has now taken.

Commission agreements with WMP

In August 2019, Jason G.’s company entered into a formal agreement with WMP signed by CEO Michael Inacker. It states that G.’s company is “interested in developing business relationships in Qatar”. WMP will “enable and promote business contacts and the conclusion of contracts” for G.’s company. For all deals that “lead to a deal”, WMP receives a commission of 20 percent of sales.

Jason G. claims that he met regularly with Inacker and gave him his share of the Qatar’s payments in cash in an envelope. A transfer receipt suggests that in March alone, a Qatari military member transferred 15,000 euros to G.

Inacker speaks of a “usual commission agreement” which was about the “successful initiation of business deals with companies in the Gulf region” – which “never came to light”. Jason G. had “several times orally put forward ideas for a percentage share of our company in the proceeds from the sale of the information in question, but a contract was not finalized”. His company “never received a payment from the informant.” And “further agreements between our company and the informant in question were never made and do not currently exist”.

At least the last point is not entirely correct. A few weeks after the first agreement, Inacker and G.’s company concluded a second agreement. It is stated in it that G.’s company has “extensive contacts and relationships with potential customers” of WMP, that WMP is “interested in acquiring new customers”. G.’s company undertakes to enable and promote “appropriate customer contacts and contracts” and receive 27.5 percent of sales. In return, WMP would also be entitled to a commission of 27.5 percent of sales for transactions brokered to G. “in the area of ​​risk analysis”. In response to multiple inquiries, WMP acknowledged the existence of the second agreement, but stated that it was intended to replace the first agreement.

Qataris offer 750.00 euros for a declaration of confidentiality

Neither the government of the emirate nor the Qatari ambassador in Berlin want to comment on the details, a government spokesman from Doha merely announced that Qatar was playing “a central role in international efforts to combat terrorism and extremism in the Middle East”. The country has “strict laws to prevent private individuals from financing terrorism,” and anyone caught doing this will be punished with all the severity of the law.

Jason G. says that he has told his new Berlin lawyer that he will not sign the confidentiality agreement under any circumstances. “I only got the first deal because the Qataris promised me that they would take these financiers out of business,” he claims. At the meeting in Brussels he was horrified when it was said that the Jews were Qatar’s “enemies”.

In the meantime, G. has approached the Israeli embassy through his Berlin lawyer and offered his services.

At the beginning of May 2020, Jason G. met again with the lobbyist Inacker for a conversation, this time at the WMP headquarters in Berlin. In the conversation, among other things, it was about the offer from Qatar to conclude a confidentiality agreement in which the knowledge about the financing of Hezbollah should be included, assures G.’s new Berlin lawyer on oath instead of citing his client. The offer by the Qataris to pay 750,000 euros in return was also mentioned. In addition, the share due to the WMP was an issue. Inacker denies knowing the content of “any negotiations that may have taken place between the informant and Qatari representatives (or other interested parties)”. This also applies to the offer from Qatar “for a payment in return for submitting a declaration of confidentiality”. On multiple inquiries, Inacker admits that he at least knew about the offer of a confidentiality obligation, but from his point of view that “never referred to the fact that it was about concealment”.

After Kashoggi’s murder, WMP ended its cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Inacker’s company WMP has repeatedly worked for various controversial customers in the past, including Saudi Arabia. But at the same time, the company also paid attention to its reputation. After Saudi agents brutally murdered the Saudi intellectual Jamal Kashoggi in the Turkish capital Istanbul in October 2018, WMP ended its cooperation with the Saudis. “After the terrible deed we have to realize today that both our mediating role and the possibilities to support the reform forces can no longer be seen by the German public and therefore cannot be represented by us,” Inacker told media. Previously, “Bild am Sonntag” reported that the Saudi Ministry of Information had paid WMP six-figure amounts a month. WMP, a moral company: This image should obviously be preserved through the decision. How does the mediation between Qataris and the private contractor fit in with this? Where are the limits of lobbying?

Inacker says today that he may have been “not decisive enough”, he should have said more clearly at one point or another that “that is not our topic”. At the same time, he insists that he “did not participate in keeping information about the terrorist organization’s financing network secret by means of a ‘declaration of secrecy.” He even “informed German authorities about the informant and his knowledge at an early stage”. Defending Israel’s right to exist plays an important role in his life.

During the conversation in May between Jason G. and Inacker at the WMP headquarters in Berlin, a sentence is said to have been uttered which, if correct, would show how clearly Inacker must have been aware of the political explosiveness of the case: If he would be “an enemy of Qatar” then he would not publish stories about working conditions on construction sites of the soccer World Cup, “but I would publish this story.” A story with “evidence that Qatar funds an organization” like Hezbollah. That would then be “on the first page of the Bild newspaper, then Qatar would have a problem.”

When asked about the alleged statement, Inacker says: “Such a statement and hypothetical argumentation do not correspond with our view.” He does not deny that the sentence was uttered.

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