University of Sussex under fire for Masters course in Qatar on corruption
The Law Masters degree by the Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption partners controversial Qatari anti-corruption office, whose founder has himself been at the centre of bribery allegations and human rights violations.
The University of Sussex has launched a Law Masters degree in Corruption, Law and Governance to be taught at the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Centre (ROLACC) in Doha, Qatar. The two-year part-time LLM is taught by “leading Sussex academics”, according to the University’s own announcement, who travel to Qatar to teach it.
ROLACC chairman of the board of trustees Dr Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri, Qatar’s attorney general since 2002, welcomed the collaboration: “The course will equip students with the knowledge and skills to assess modalities of corruption and design solutions for dealing with corrupt practices.”
Al Marri, however, has himself been at the centre of corruption investigations, as questions about his €19m luxury property portfolio emerged. As a senior civil servant in Doha he is estimated to earn between $10,000-$12,000 per month. Yet, he owns a mansion near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and another in a wealthy district of Geneva. Through a shell company, Al Marri also owns the office building of ROLACC’s headquarters in Geneva. GSG Immobilier SA is owned by Al Marri and his daughter, Maha, meaning his family receives rent from the anti-corruption agency he founded.
But that’s not all. Al Marri has been criticised for holding his property bank accounts with the National Bank of Kuwait, likely to hide his wealth from his government in Doha. He has also been accused of human rights violations. In his role as attorney general, Al Marri has broken the Declaration of Human Rights by ordering flogging as punishment for drinking alcohol. What’s more, homosexual relationships are condemned by the death penalty for Muslims and seven years of detention for non-Muslims. Al Marri also pushed for a brutal life sentence for a Qatari poet whose only crime was to promote freedom and human rights in his homeland.
LLM students in Doha may, however, be mainly interested in the head of ROLACC’s properties. How was a public servant able to buy a €9.6m villa on Avenue d’Iéna in Paris, as revealed by Le Point, a €6.2m villa in Cologny, a posh part of Geneva overlooking the lake, and the €3.2m office at Route de Ferney in the Grand-Saconnex district of Geneva? Al Marri bought these properties between 2013 and 2015, and all are held in individual companies registered with the Kuwaiti national bank.
Perhaps the most interesting anecdote for the students of the Sussex University degree in Doha comes from a meeting between Al Marri and his French counterpart, Bruno Dalles, the director of French financial intelligence agency TRACFIN. The meeting took place in the presence of the French ambassador, when Al Marri appeared to offer Dalles a luxury watch to be sent to his hotel. French journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot tell the story in their book Our Dear Emirs — a book that may become compulsory reading for the LLM students.