The Qatari government, a prominent donor to the Clinton Foundation and a suspected enabler of terrorist groups, recently arrested and briefly imprisoned a group of BBC journalists reporting on worker exploitation in the oil-rich nation.
The Qataris had invited BBC correspondent Mark Lobel and his colleagues to tour new housing facilities for low-paid migrant workers who have flocked to the country seeking construction jobs as Qatar prepares to host the World Cup in 2022. Working conditions and worker accommodations in Qatar have been widely criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, which says migrant workers are often "treated like cattle." Hundreds of World Cup workers are estimated to have died on the job.
Days before their government-sponsored publicity tour was scheduled to begin, however, the BBC was stopped while driving on the highway, taken to a detention facility, and interrogated by "hostile" security officials. Lobel was shown pictures of himself and his crew, indicating that Qatari agents had been trailing them from the moment they arrived. Their crime, apparently, was trying to visit the migrant worker camps without government approval. In a statement, the Qataris accused the journalists of trespassing on "private property."
Lobel and his BBC colleagues were ultimately released after two nights in a "filthy prison" and were allowed to take part in the government-approved tour, which was administered by the London-based public relations firm Portland Communications. The Qatari government has ramped up its lobbying efforts in recent years to help combat unwanted criticism. Among the firms they have hired is Levick Public Relations, which employs Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and ardent defender of Hillary Clinton.
The Clinton Foundation has enjoyed close ties to Qatar government for years. The country has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and was the only foreign government donor to have also lobbied the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The country’s official World Cup 2022 committee has donated between $250,001 and $500,000, at least a portion of which was donated in 2014. Amwal, one of Qatar’s most prominent investment firms, has also contributed to the foundation.
Bill Clinton praised the Qataris as "intelligent, forward-looking" investment partners after the Clinton Foundation teamed up with the Qatari government to invest millions in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Chelsea Clinton’s chief of staff at the Clinton Foundation used to manage the now defunct partnership between the Tribeca Film Festival and the Qatari film industry.
Former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs has described the Clinton Foundation’s ties to the Qatari government (and other questionable Middle Eastern regimes) as "awkward at best."