A secret document that appears to show six-figure payments from Qatar to top Muslim Brotherhood officials is fueling charges of corruption and hypocrisy at ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist cronies.
The document, allegedly recovered in the ransacking of Muslim Brotherhood offices in Cairo after the Egyptian military removed Morsi from office, lists payments ranging from $250,000 to $850,000 to top Morsi associates from the former Prime Minister of Qatar. The payments, which some observers believe may be linked to funding Qatar provided the Morsi government on steep and unpopular terms, undermine the religious regime’s moral authority, say experts.
“The notion was that because they were Islamists, because they are more religious, they had higher morals when it came to issues like corruption,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told FoxNews.com. “It seems that when in power, Islamists can often succumb to the same temptations.”
The document, written in both English and Arabic, was brought to light by independent Egyptian journalist Abdallah Hamouda in a recent appearance on the BBC. Hamouda said he “challenged the people whose names were listed to defend themselves, but no one rang [back].”
The document, dated March 28, 2013, details the transfer of sums from “HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabber Al Thani (May God Protect Him), Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs” of Qatar, to a long list of significant Muslim Brotherhood members.
Sheikh Hamad stepped down from his position late last month along with the Emir of Qatar who -- in a move that shocked the whole region -- suddenly abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.
Qatar’s public support for the Morsi regime had already caused anger in Egypt at the Gulf Kingdom, which many believe tried to take advantage of the changes in Egypt to further its own political agenda.
Schanzer said the apparent financial corruption would be a natural extension of the political corruption he believes led to Morsi’s ouster. Despite holding office for less than a year, Morsi forced out hundreds of judges and government officials, replacing them with Muslim Brotherhood figures.
“That was seen as a manipulation beyond the pale,” said Schanzer.
The brazen abuses of the democratic mandate Morsi received just over a year earlier prompted tens of millions of people to take to the streets in protest, and, ultimately, Egypt’s powerful armed forces to step in, he said.
But the secret payments flowing in from Qatar as Egypt’s economy crumbled may be related to huge loans the country made to Egypt that were criticized by economists as not being in Egypt’s best interests. Instead of using the funds to restructure debt, the Morsi government simply added to Egypt’s debt burden at interest rates that benefited Qatar, critics said at the time.
But if secret payments helped smooth the way for the massive loans from Qatar, it may have backfired.
“Qatar has spent billions of dollars in Egypt and at least right now it looks as though this was a bad investment on their part,” Schanzer said.
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who blogs at www.paulalster.com and can be followed on twitter @ paul_alster