A Pasco County defense contractor says a member of the Qatari royal family asked him to kill two people then later held him against his will, according to a federal lawsuit filed against Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani.
Matthew Pittard said he was hired to protect al Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, in September 2017. But the relationship quickly soured.
Pittard’s lawsuit was filed last month in the Middle District of Florida in conjunction with Matthew Allende of California. Both alleged that al Thani withheld their wages and overtime, performed “unfair and/or deceptive acts,” and retaliated against them.
The pair said they they were often forced to work 60 to 96 hour work-weeks with no overtime — and with minimal breaks to eat or sleep.
Pittard, 45, said it was his job to provide security services to al Thani and his family, both in the the U.S. and in Doha, Qatar. Shortly after he was hired, Pittard said al Thani asked him to murder a man and a woman al Thani “viewed as threats to his social reputation and personal security,” the lawsuit said.
Pittard said he refused, but continued to work for al Thani until July 2018.
That’s when Pittard said he reached his breaking point. He alleged that al Thani held a U.S. citizen against his will on at least two occasions and eventually had that person jailed in Doha. Pittard said he worked with the U.S. embassy to free the U.S. citizen, who was not identified in the lawsuit.
That enraged his employer, Pittard said.
Al Thani told Pittard that he would “pay the price” for defying him and threatened to “kill him, bury his body in the desert and kill Pittard’s family,” according to the lawsuit. The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the alleged incident.
Days later, Pittard says he was held against his will and forced to sign termination documents while al Thani “tapped” a Glock 26 semiautomatic pistol. Pittard said his work equipment, electronics, medication and other belongings were all stolen.
Afterwards, al Thani continued to seek revenge, according to the complaint, and sabotaged a security and arms brokerage contract Pittard had negotiated with the Police Training Institute in Doha.
Pittard lives in Trinity and studied studied forensics and law enforcement at St. Petersburg College. He has registered two short-lived companies in Florida: International Stability Solutions in 2009 and Defense Advisors Group International from 2015-2017.
In the lawsuit, Allende, who says he was employed as a paramedic, said he had his own run-ins with al Thani. He once tried to scale an 18-foot wall to escape the sheikh’s premises after being threatened at gunpoint by a guard, the lawsuit claims. He fell and sustained serious injuries that required surgery.
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The Embassy of Qatar in Washington, D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.
Pittard’s former employer is the brother of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, and owns a state-owned conglomerate, KH Holding LLC, also named in the lawsuit. Khalid bin Hamad al Thani is best known for his passion for drag racing and is believed to have poured tens of millions of government money into an American-based team, Al-Anabi racing from 2008-15.
In 2015, al Thani made headlines when a Ferrari and a Porsche he owned were spotted racing around Beverly Hills, Calif., angering residents. After denying they were his cars, al Thani claimed he had diplomatic immunity, then left the U.S., reported the Los Angeles Times. California authorities did not believe that he actually had diplomatic immunity, however.
Attorney Rebecca Castaneda, who is representing the two plaintiffs, said that while al Thani is not a U.S. citizen, his businesses operate in the U.S. and affect American citizens. That means his actions are covered under Florida and California state labor regulations even if the allegations took place abroad.
Whether or not her clients will be able to collect on any back wages or damages won in court remains to be seen, she said.