One may guess that the current political row between Qatar and the rest of the GCC may affect the defence industrial links between the member States, but it is not. On the contrary. A good example is given by the contract clinched by Fincantieri in Qatar and in force since August of this year (1). Far from being led in Doha or in La Spezzia, a major part of the contract will be performed and supported directly in the UAE and by UAE companies.
The Qatari ships technical designs: clones of the UAE ships
First fold of the Qatari package: four corvettes. Their design will be directly derived from the Abu-Dhabi-class corvette in terms of architecture, propulsion and combat system; this design has been provided to the UAE Navy by Fincantieri and Etihad Shipbuilding, a joint venture between the UAE Al Fattan group (51%), Fincantieri (35%) and Oto Melara (14%) (2).
The corvette costed €91,500,000 millions (source: Italian Senate, 2013). Etihad approved the design transfer to Qatar through the Fincantieri deal.
The 2 offshore patrol vessels – second fold of the Qatari naval package – will be very similar to the UAE Navy Falaj 2 marketed in Qatar by Etihad Shipbuilding (3). They costed €200 millions (source : Italian Senate, 2013). The Jane’s Fighting ships, the autorative source in the naval domain, said that the Qatari patrol vessels « are expected to be similar to the Falaj-2 class patrol craft delivered to the UAE Navy in 2013”.
The UAE: financial channels of the Qatari deal?
As reported by sources involved in the financing deal, part of it was arranged by the UAE Bin Yousef group.
The Bin Yousef Group has been partly involved in the financial network of the deal with Doha. Mohamed Khalifa Bin Yousef Al Suwaidi, its founder and leader, is the son of Khalifa Bin Yousef al Suwaidi. According to the website of the group, « His father was an influential man on the economic and political front of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and grew his trade from the traditional to the very modern in Abu Dhabi. H.E. followed his father’s footstep and exceled in his national career while building his own successful businesses.
His Excellency had a long and illustrious career serving mainly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.
In the early years of his career, H.E occupied the position of Chief of Staff in Abu Dhabi’s Defense Force (ADDF) where he held ranks from Major to Brigadier. From 1967 to 1971, he was appointed Vice Chairman of The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Defense Department, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who later became Ruler of Abu Dhabi, president of the United Arab Emirates and the Supreme Commander to the UAE Armed Forces in 2004 (…)
From 1972 to 2001 and after the inception of the United Arab Emirates, he served as the Director General of Economic Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE Foreign Affairs where he achieved the Diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary.
As part of his duties, he served as member and Chairman of the Diplomatic Council of the UAE Foreign Affairs which contributed towards expanding the diplomatic missions across the globe. Throughout his career with the diplomatic corps, he was the UAE Governor to The African Development Bank where he founded and chaired both The UAE/ Sudan Joint State Corporation and The Joint Arab Corporation – UAE & Egypt. From 2001 to 2005, H.E. served as the Minister of State as the First Advisor to the Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to his retirement in 2005.
Besides having full-time duties, H.E. contributed largely to the UAE banking industry. H.E. had a major role in building the international network of The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) of which he was a Board Director for 12 years, before the bank joined forces with First Gulf Bank to become known today as the First AbuDhabi Bank. In addition to having founded and served on the boards of the National Bank of Ras Al Khaima (RAK-BANK) and the Al-Khazna Insurance Company. »
The Bin Yousef Group appears twice in the Panama papers (together with two real estate companies, Tarboro estates Ltd and Nessem Ltd). (4)
So, far from the current political row, some UAE companies are deeply involved in the Qatari contract of Fincantieri…An Arabic proverb said: احذر عدوك مرة وصديقك ألف مرة فإن انقلب الصديق فهو أعلم بالمضرة: « Beware of your enemy once and your friend a thousand times, if your friend turned upside down, he knows You better« …
(2): April 24, 2013 defense-aerospace.com (Source: Italian navy; issued April 23, 2013). « As evidence of the strategic importance assumed by the Middle Eastern market and the strong partnership started with the UAE, Fincantieri has formed the company Etihad Ship Building – a joint venture with Al Fattan Ship Industries and Melara Middle East – specializing in the design, production and sale of different types of civil and naval ships, as well as conducting maintenance and refitting of those under construction in Italy. »
(3): 26-03-2014. “On different fronts, Fincantieri and Etihad Ship Building have started negotiations with different gulf countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iraq,” said Achille Fulfaro, ESB’s general manager. “For Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 2014, the negotiations will start and we will go in to deep analysis of their requirements, and we hope to create the conditions for production.”