Scottish man detained in Iraq sentenced to 2 years in Qatar jail ‘likely to be extradited’.
British citizen Brian Glendinning was to start work on a construction engineering contract in Basra last month, when he was abruptly arrested by authorities on the basis of a Red Notice from Qatar. The Scot had worked in Doha in 2016 and was persuaded by aggressive sales reps of Qatar National Bank to take out a £20,000 low-interest loan to help him settle in the country. While on holiday in 2017, Glendinning fell ill, and claimed sick-leave from his job, only to be immediately fired. Despite the fact that he made consistent payments on the debt throughout his time in Qatar, and despite remaining in contact with QNB during his unemployment; the bank filed a criminal complaint against Glendinning for “defaulting” on the loan. He was convicted in absentia to two years in prison, and his name was submitted to Interpol as a fugitive sought for extradition.
“Typically, when anyone agrees to take a loan from QNB,” commented Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Doha and IPEX, an NGO dedicated to Interpol reform, “they are required to submit a security cheque for the total amount of the loan. If they fall behind in their payments, the bank will cash that security cheque, which inevitably bounces. The bank then accuses the debtor of fraud, and claims that they are owed the total principal of the loan, regardless of how much it has already been paid down through months of instalments.”
Glendinning has been held in police lock-up for 4 weeks, and faces the possibility of extradition any day now.
“Our immediate concern is for Brian’s safety; Iraqi prisons are notoriously harsh, horribly overcrowded, unsanitary, and breeding places of disease. The inmates are disproportionately violent militants charged with terrorism, and a Westerner like Brian is in imminent danger,” Stirling explained, “Next, there is the risk of Brian’s extradition to Qatar, where he would face two years in prison where conditions are not significantly better.”
Qatar, due to host the FIFA World Cup next month, has considerable influence in Iraq, Stirling said, and extradition is a near certainty unless concerted intervention is made on Glendinning’s behalf. “Unlike other Gulf States, Qatar maintains solid relations with Iran, which is the most influential player in Iraq, and Doha has entered into several trade and investment deals with the government in Baghdad. One of the major banks in Iraq, Al Mansoor Bank, is a subsidiary of QNB.
“Unfortunately, Britain’s influence in Iraq, in Qatar, and the Gulf overall, has dwindled over the past decade, as has the UK’s will to intervene in these countries on behalf of its citizens. Qatar is pumping tens of billions of pounds of investment into the UK, and Qataris pour billions more into British real estate every year. We have seen government support for British expats in the Gulf steadily evaporating as Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati investment flows into the UK. There is no doubt that the FCDO can successfully intervene to secure Brian’s release, but we will need overwhelming public support to make sure that happens.”
It is conceivable, Stirling said, that Glendinning could be arriving in Doha at the same time as World Cup football fans, “While thousands of British tourists embark for Qatar to attend the World Cup and stay in 5-star hotels, Brian may be bundled onto a plane in handcuffs and leg shackles, headed to a cramped prison cell. Most of these tourists will be paying for the trip with credit cards; there is even an official World Cup Visa card. Undoubtedly, some of these football fans may fall behind on their payments over the coming months – can anyone imagine being listed on Interpol for that, and sent to prison?
“Doha Bank has issued their own special edition World Cup credit card, tempting applicants with a whole host of incentives and bonuses, the same promotional tactics used to lure people like Brian into taking out bank loans. Anyone who accepts these kinds of offers could easily find themselves in Brian’s position. Even while you are negotiating a payment plan with the bank, they may be having you charged and convicted for defaulting without you ever knowing – just like Brian.”