Businesses and mosques, the network of Qatar in Italy

(The New Bussola Daily/InfoCatlica) is called Qatargate and it gives all the impression of being a scandal that has just begun. The security services of five European states are investigating the Qatari government’s attempt to bribe European Union parliamentarians: an alleged system of corruption, with the main objective of affecting the files studied by the Eurochamber. The investigation grows every day. To date, those involved are mainly politicians from the Social Democratic wing of the European Parliament, including several Italians. There is, for example, the former MEP of the Democratic Party, today of Article One, Antonio Panzeri, suspended after the scandal, but also Niccol Figa-Talamanca of the NGO No Peace Without Justice [No hay Paz sin Justicia]founded in 1993 by Emma Bonino.

But the association between Italy and Qatar is not recent. Weaving a network of acquaintances capable of influencing is a global Doha strategy that, for years, has seen Europe as a fundamental element and Italy as a country of special interest. The strategic investments over the years were not wasted. Doha, through the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund created in 2005 to invest worldwide, has invested heavily in Italy over the past fifteen years. A treasure whose value will be around 5,000 million euros. Qatar, slightly larger than Abruzzo, in 2022 has a population of three million people for a GDP of 223,000 million euros and a GDP per capita that is more than double that of Italy.

1995 was the turning point for the country, when, with a coup, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani overthrew his father and became emir. His immediate objective is to transform the small state into a world power. The enormous profits of the oil and gas industry cover his back and already in 1996 he financed with 150 million dollars the creation of the television station Al Jazeera, which over the years has become, according to the BBC, the most important Arabic-language news channel in the world. And meanwhile Al Thani began a long and flourishing friendship with the Muslim Brotherhood to aim, through the religious, cultural and economic fabric, at the expansion towards the West, including Italy.

Qatar has long been an important partner of Italy in terms of energy: under a long-term contract signed by Edison, Italy receives 6.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, that is, more than 10% of the total energy supply. gas that Italy buys abroad. But the Italy-Qatar friendship is not limited to energy. Fashion, luxury hotels, Costa Smeralda, Milan: the list of Qatari businesses in Italy grows every year. In 2021, Qatari exports to Italy amounted to 2.1 billion euros, figures that have remained that way, without particular changes, since 2019; Furthermore, Italy is the second European supplier to Qatar (after Germany) and the tenth in the world.

In Milan, QIA owns the Hotel Gallia, a 5-star hotel acquired in 2006. And within a few years, it became the owner of the Gritti Palace in Venice, the St. Regis and the Excelsior in Rome, and the Baglioni and the Four Seasons. from Florence. Regarding fashion, in 2012 Qatar bought the house Valentino for 700 million euros. That same year, Smeralda Holding, owner of luxury hotels, was bought for 650 million euros: 2,300 hectares of immaculate land on the Gallura coast that were converted into four hotels. In 2014, Pigliaru as president and Renzi as prime minister signed an agreement with Rispo, responsible in Italy for the Qatar Foundation Endowment: this is how the Mater Olbia hospital was born. In 2015, she plays Milan again. The skyscrapers of Porta Nuova, symbol of the skyline of the Lombardy capital, they become the property of Doha for 2,000 million. In 2016 the San Domenico hotel in Taormina was purchased and in 2017 Qatar Airways completed the acquisition process of 49% of Meridiana.

Foreign policy is also implemented with military supplies; and the emirate, over the years, has become a prime client of the Italian military-industrial complex. In 2017, Qatar signed with Fincantieri the purchase of seven warships (four corvettes, two high-altitude patrol boats and a multi-purpose amphibious ship) with a contract of 4,000 million euros. To this is added the 3,000 million euros for NHIndustries, partly owned by Leonardo, to buy 28 helicopters. On the other hand, agri-food exports from Italy to Qatar grew by 291% from 2009 to 2019. Only in 2021 was there a growth of 38%.

Qatar has also financed the construction of many mosques and Quranic schools. In 2019 he caused a sensation with the publication of the Qatar Papers, the book about the emirate billions to buy Europe. Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, two French journalists, found in their hands thousands of internal documents from the Qatar Charity (a foundation controlled by the Emir of Qatar, the small state’s central node of soft power) and demonstrated how, to the tune of millions, Doha’s Islam was penetrating European culture, sport and economy. The book revealed the existence of 113 projects financed across Europe in 2014 alone, for a total of 71 million euros: the country where Q had spent the mosttie charity at that time it was Italy, with 22 million spread over 45 projects.

The Islam to be preached is Sunni, the closest to Qatar. For this, Doha invests time and money. One of the best-known projects refers to the city of Bárgamo, where, thanks to Qatari funds, a macro-mosque will be built for a value of five million euros. A project born in 2015, which ended up in court for irregularities in the funds and which in recent months was relaunched by the local magnet. Then there is the Ravenna Mosque: inaugurated in 2013, the second largest in Italy after the Rome Mosque, it cost 1,300,000 euros, of which 800,000 came from the Qtie charity. It may be a coincidence, but Ravenna alone produced 10% of the Italian foreign fighters who left for Syria in 2015. Qatar also wanted to build a macro-mosque in Sesto San Giovanni, but the suspicious origin of the funds induced the mayor of the League to block everything. In Centocelle, a crowded neighborhood of Rome, the Qtie charity bought an old furniture factory for four million and turned it into a mosque for 800 worshipers. Also the mosque of Catania has the signature of Qtie charity; and there are several mosques and cultural centers under construction throughout Sicily.

Today Qatar is at the center of the most urgent geopolitical problems of the moment. Close to Iran and the United States of Biden, it has a direct channel with the Taliban in Afghanistan. And thanks to the givesʿwathe proselytizing action of Islam carried out in numerous mosques, is now ready to control the Muslims of Italy.

Businesses and mosques, the network of Qatar in Italy