Former aide who laid bare the sleazy world of Qatar’s London embassy reveals she wore Primark clothes and travelled by Tube, while women who slept with the Ambassador wore designer labels and drove Mercedes
- Deanne Kingson got damages for eight years of sexual and religious persecution
- She revealed ambassador at Qatar Embassy asked to marry her daughter, 19
- Deanne says officials believed women were commodities who could be bought
Sprawled on a sofa in the opulent Art Deco ballroom in London’s Claridge’s Hotel, the senior Qatari diplomat beckoned towards Deanne Kingson. As the elegant mother-of-two made her way past gold-framed mirrors and crystal chandeliers, the man – wearing a traditional dishdasha, head-dress and black and gold ceremonial robe – raised his hand and declared solemnly: ‘I wish to propose.’
Deanne, an attractive divorcee who worked as a senior secretary in the protocol department of the Qatar Embassy, had become well-accustomed to the lascivious ways of executive ambassador, Fahed Al-Mushairi, the second-in-command at the Gulf state’s mission in Mayfair.
Expecting another sexually loaded suggestion, she feigned a polite smile – but recoiled as she learned the hideous nature of his intentions. ‘I want to marry your daughter,’ said Al-Mushairi, a married man in his late-40s who was well aware that the 19-year-old student was only yards away at a party to celebrate Qatar’s National Day.
Deanne Kingson who won an employment tribunal case against the Qatari Embassy in London
Deanne had become well-accustomed to the lascivious ways of executive ambassador, Fahed Al-Mushairi, the second-in-command at the Gulf state’s mission in Mayfair (both pictured)
‘I had to think on my feet,’ recalled Deanne of the incident in December 2010. ‘You could never exactly say no, it was always a matter of finding a good excuse. So I told him she already had a boyfriend and when he summoned her over, I made sure I embraced her first and urgently whispered in her ear, “Tell him you have a boyfriend.” ’
The teenager was unsurprisingly nonplussed by the request but did as her mother told her.
Though shocking, the incident typified the sleazy world of Qatar’s London embassy – a toxic environment finally exposed last week when an employment tribunal awarded Deanne almost £390,000 in damages for eight years of sexual and religious persecution meted out by its well-groomed diplomats.
The climate of grotesque misogyny was, says Deanne, underpinned by the innate belief among senior officials that women – particularly Western women – were commodities who could be bought, hired and ultimately discarded.
The disclosures are deeply embarrassing to Qatar which is preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and showcase itself to visiting fans and millions watching on TV. The country has used its wealth and influence to shrug off persistent allegations of corruption about the award of the tournament, a strategy adopted unsuccessfully to thwart Deanne, 59, during years of abuse and a five-year legal fight that left her clinically depressed and on the verge of suicide.
‘I had to go on for the sake of my children,’ Deanne told The Mail on Sunday last night
‘I had to go on for the sake of my children,’ she told The Mail on Sunday last night. ‘They are the reason I didn’t give up my job when the embassy tried to force me out and they are the reason I’m still here.’
Raised in Aden, Deanne moved to Britain with her Yemeni-British husband and two children in 1999, shortly before the marriage broke down. After struggling to get by for several years, she secured what she hoped would be her dream job at the Qatar Embassy in upmarket South Audley Street in 2006, where her fluency in Arabic and English could be put to good use. Almost immediately, however, there would be signs of Al-Mushairi’s lecherous nature. ‘I was interviewed by a secretary, we got on well and she said she just had to have a word with the executive ambassador,’ she said.
‘She came back and told me he wanted to meet me. It seemed pretty obvious he was looking me over, but it’s not the first time it’s happened and sometimes you just have to sigh and put up with it.’
Deanne was later ‘interviewed’ by Al-Mushairi on the phone during which he quizzed her about every aspect of her life for two hours. She got the job.
At first she enjoyed life in the glamorous surroundings of the imposing Grade II-listed Victorian building close to the Dorchester Hotel and her £30,000-a-year job taking care of the ‘movements’ of Qatari diplomats and ministers, booking them first-class flights, chauffeurs and hotel suites.
‘My friends were envious. It was a glimpse into a different world where money is no object,’ she said. ‘I would rub shoulders with VIPs, ministers and ambassadors. It gave me a buzz.’
But Al-Mushairi was impressed with more than her work, making clear – as the tribunal accepted – he wanted a physical relationship with Deanne. His initial gambit was to bring up the subject of khat – a mind-altering stimulant whose leaves are commonly chewed in Yemen and East Africa to produce euphoria and excitement. It has been banned in the UK as a Class C drug since 2014.
‘He told me about a friend who found it was a great aphrodisiac,’ said Deanne. ‘Then he immediately suggested we chew it together in his penthouse apartment in Knightsbridge. The implication was obvious – he wanted to do it with me as a prelude to sex. I always had to come up with an excuse, saying I had to look after my children or something, but trying not to offend him. But he kept on asking, so in desperation after two years of this, I came up with another strategy – which I hoped he would refuse – that he could come to my home where we could chew khat. Of course, I had no intention of having sex with him.’
The outside of the Qatari embassy in London. The London employment tribunal heard how staff considered Ms Kingson to be ‘liable or willing to engage in sexual contact with male employees’ because she was not a Muslim
But a visit to Deanne’s modest former council house in a West London suburb altogether less salubrious than Knightsbridge did not dissuade the diplomat. As a precaution, Deanne recruited her then 16-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to act as unwitting chaperones – a fateful decision that she would come to bitterly regret.
‘They stayed up until about 1am – way past their bedtime – and he eventually got the message that nothing was going to happen,’ she recalled.
Later, undeterred, Al-Mushairi plagued Deanne with almost laughably crude passes, including stories of his sexual conquests. It was obvious to Deanne that some women succumbed to the questionable charms of wealthy diplomats.
‘We would meet a lot of other staff from Gulf states and other embassies at receptions throughout the year,’ she said.
‘It was an enjoyable part of the job, but it was obvious to me which women had said “Yes” when they were propositioned – they were the ones wearing designer labels and driving expensive cars.
‘I travelled on the Tube and wore clothes from Primark. If I’d played a different game then maybe I would also be living in a palace and be at the wheel of a Mercedes, but I wasn’t prepared to do that.’
Eventually, Al-Mushairi’s pursuit of Deanne began to fizzle out, only to be replaced by what appeared to be a fixation with her daughter.
‘He was always asking me about her and would pick up my iPhone and scroll through it looking for photos of her,’ said Deanne. ‘It was quite sickening, but once I realised what he was up to, I removed all photos of her from my phone.
‘I suppose I told myself that even he couldn’t stoop so low as to hit on a teenage girl, but after making the marriage proposal to her at Claridge’s, he admitted he’d fancied her sexually when she was young and he had first seen her in my home.
‘But he said he had “waited”, as if he was exercising some kind of honourable restraint.
‘I felt absolutely sick. I had always tried to protect my daughter but that night, when he came to my house, I had used her and her brother to protect me and at the same time actually put her at risk from him.’
The teenager was able to fend off Al-Mushairi’s advances at Claridge’s but he still insisted on proprietorially wrapping his bisht cloak around her in a ‘jokey’ way for a photograph.
More was to come. As well as pestering Deanne more regularly about her daughter, he suggested taking the teenager to Paris where he would buy her ‘anything she wanted’. ‘He was basically implying she was no better than a prostitute and that was exactly what he had been suggesting about me,’ said Deanne. ‘Because I had a laughing, bubbly personality and didn’t consider myself a Muslim, in his mind that meant I was cheap and easy. As time went by, I felt more and more inhibited and began to curb my exuberant personality in case it sent out the wrong signals. My children began to notice that I was stressed, but I didn’t confide in them very often as I wished to protect them.’
Deanne Kingson, 58, worked as a personal assistant at the Qatari embassy in London
Blatant misogyny was not confined to Al-Mushairi: Deanne was propositioned by the 19-year-old son of a Qatari staff member whom she had known since he was 14.
‘This young man used to come into the embassy and tell me how attractive I was looking, then said he thought I was sexy,’ she recalled. ‘I stopped him and asked if he realised I was older than his own mother. His reply left me speechless. He said that his friends had told him it was quite normal for a young boy to sleep with an older woman. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.’
Despite the decision by the Qataris not to contest Deanne’s claims, the tribunal heard – and accepted in its judgment – Deanne had been the victim of ‘malicious, insulting or oppressive behaviour’ from Al-Mushairi and some of his colleagues, none of whom still works at the London embassy.
A consultant diplomat called Ali Al Harjri would, for example, suggest to Deanne that she might wish to stage – and then host – orgies for him. He asked me if I could organise a party for mixed groups of men and women with alcohol and said I should host it and invite whoever I wanted,’ said Deanne. ‘His meaning was clear. Against the backdrop of an Islamic culture where single men and women wouldn’t mix – and certainly wouldn’t do so with alcohol – he wanted a drunken sex party.’
She demurred, but Al Harjri had another idea. ‘He instructed me to book a holiday for me and him to go to Cuba. It was ridiculous, but he was very insistent.
‘I just kept coming up with excuses involving the children. He knew I adore Paris so would suggest he’d be able to get me a job in the Paris embassy – but the price was obviously more than a ticket on the Eurostar.’
The tribunal judge agreed that much of the behaviour amounted to sexual and religious discrimination. In the judgment, Judge Brown wrote: ‘I accept…that all these things were done because the claimant was seen as not being a good Muslim woman, because she was not Muslim, and she was seen by these male employees to be liable to be willing to engage in sexual conduct.’
Repeatedly rebuffing the advances of diplomats put Deanne’s job on the line. She was given menial tasks or landed with impossible quantities of work to ensure she missed deadlines. Then, when a replacement was drafted in, Deanne was asked to train her.
‘She turned to me after about a month and asked how long I’d been there,’ recalled Deanne. ‘I said about five years and she said she didn’t know how I’d stuck it, and promptly walked out for good.’
Deanne was eventually sacked in June 2014 and decided to take the embassy to an employment tribunal. She soon began receiving veiled threats, including one from a former colleague who allegedly said she would ‘be thrown behind the sun’ [an Arabic phrase equating to being ‘disappeared’] if she persisted.
Her case received a boost when Mohamed Ahmed, a former security officer and driver at the Qatar Embassy, was awarded almost £190,000 for being called ‘a dog’ and a ‘black slave’ by a different Qatari diplomat.
In another case, the Supreme Court ruled the right of embassies to claim diplomatic immunity was incompatible with European human rights rules – allowing Deanne’s case to proceed.
But the legal fight took a heavy toll as Deanne was plunged into depression. ‘There were times when I went to sleep and didn’t want to wake up in the morning,’ she said. ‘But I never did anything about it because of my children.’
Then she met solicitor Howard Epstein, from City lawyers McFaddens LLP, who she says helped steer her claim to its successful conclusion. Epstein hopes the Qataris will behave honourably by paying Deanne her compensation. ‘For them, the timing could not be better,’ he said. ‘This is a golden opportunity for Qatar to make a good name for itself by recognising its obligations.’
A spokesman for the Qatar Embassy in London said that it ‘rejects the accusations made by Ms Kingson in her recent legal case in London’, adding: ‘The embassy regrets that it was not properly served by the court, which failed to follow the correct legal procedures. As such, the embassy was unable to participate in proceedings.’
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