UAE 'paid Swiss firm' over €5 million on alleged 'Muslim Brotherhood smear campaign' in Europe
The UAE reportedly paid a Swiss firm at least €5.7 million (£4.9 million) to smear individuals and organisations across Europe as being members or affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to a report by European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network.
The UAE allegedly targeted at least 1,100 people as part of its campaign to turn public opinion against Qatar, which was perceived as being supportive of Brotherhood-affiliated groups, during the diplomatic crisis of 2017, the report found.
From 2017-2020, the UAE allegedly recruited the Swiss private intelligence firm Alp Services to create an extensive database of people from 18 different European countries and 400 organisations, all to be used by Emirati intelligence, according to the EIC report.
The report was based on 78,000 confidential documents obtained by French media outlet Mediaparts and shared with the EIC.
The EIC claimed that the UAE used the Geveva-based company Alp Services to compile intelligence, modify Wikipedia pages, launch media campaigns and exert pressure on banks to close the accounts of targeted individuals and organisations.
Targeting progressive Muslim voices
According to the report, the purpose of the UAE operation was to link every named individual with extremism, with a particular focus on those in Belgium and France.
The UAE's alleged smear campaign listed 80 organisations and 160 individuals from Belgium, including the country’s Climate Minister Zakia Khattabi, who is of Moroccan descent and who used to co-chair the left-wing Ecolo party.
Khattabi denied any involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying "everything is false" regarding the UAE’s attempts to link her to the group.
Another target on the UAE’s list was Belgian centre-left political scientist Fouad Gandoul, who similarly said he had never had any links to the Brotherhood and was added to the list because of his membership in a group linked to progressive Muslim politics.
The list of targets included politicians, including a French presidential candidate, as well as numerous Islamic-oriented charities and humanitarian organisations.
The UAE lists the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as any group it considers to be affiliated with it, as a "terrorist group", despite the group renouncing violence.
The UAE did not respond to the report in any capacity, while Alp Services told the EIC that it was based on “stolen documents" some of which it claims were "partly falsified".