‘My grandfather rode a camel, my father also rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will ride a camel’: the Sheikh of Dubai, Rāshid bin Saʿīd Āl Maktūm, said this at the time[1]. The sentence explains very well the profound reasons behind the policy of this small Persian Gulf state: after a century in which the Emiratis copied Western models, we will soon reach a great milestone: we will copy the traditional models of these forward-looking countries. We will do this because the planet needs, at the same time, oil and energy-saving – and strict and simple cultural models.

This is why, between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, lobbying is not an employee thing, but is firmly and personally in the hands of the local monarchy elite. It is not surprising, therefore, that lobbying is one of the main activities of Khaldūn al-Mubārak, one of the most powerful men in the country, the one who exports, through the Mubadala group, the image of the Emirates abroad and represents its commercial, political and military interests[2].

For this purpose, there are bodies such as the UAE-France Strategic Dialogue, the New York University Board of Trustees, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Emirates Global Aluminium, who weave high-level relations, who is the one who managed to turn former British Prime Minister Tony Blair into an Emirati employee – the one who, for example, made it possible for Abu Dhabi to sign mining agreements with Guinea[3].

The same goes for, for example, the former advisor to the British government, Lord John Browne, who as CEO of BP is chairman of the international advisory board of Mubadala Oil and Gas, a company owned by the Abu Dhabi government, which signs an oil deal with the government of Somalia[4]. Since 2011 Mubadala has been working with Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm[5], and since 2016 Mubadala has been on the official list of lobbyists at US federal institutions.

At the roots of power

Khaldūn Khalīfa Aḥmad al-Mubārak, CEO of Mudabala Group[6]

Khaldūn Khalīfa Aḥmad al-Mubārak is a politician, businessman and sports executive, and a prominent member of the Abu Dhabi government. He was born on 1 December 1975 in Abu Dhabi, and was educated at the American Community School in his hometown[7], and later at Tufts University in Boston, where he graduated in 1997 with a degree in Economics and Finance[8]. Al Mubarak is married to Nadia Sehweil, a Palestinian by birth, who runs a yoga, pilates and dance studio with her mother[9]. The two have known each other since high school and have three children[10].

Khaldūn comes from a family of diplomats, scholars, clerics and magistrates, including Khalifa Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Mubarak, Khaldūn’s father, ambassador to Sudan, Syria and Paris, where he was assassinated by the Arab Revolutionary Brigades on 8 February 1984, aged just 36, ‘because of his country’s links with American imperialism’[11] ; his grandfather is the late (Al Sheikh) Ahmed Abdulaziz Hamad Al-Mubarak[12] , judge and President of the Shari’a Judicial Department of Abu Dhabi; his great-grandfather, Professor (Al Sheikh) Abdulaziz Hamad Al-Mubarak, jurist and advisor to Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, is known for founding the first school in Dubai[13].

Khaldūn has three brothers, two of whom are high-ranking government officials: Rasha Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, CEO and board member of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency[14] and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund[15]; Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, a member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council[16] and chairman of the commercial company Aldar Properties[17].

He, Khaldūn, has built a solid international reputation as his companies invest billions in the West. In 2007, he was appointed Commendatore of the Order of the Star of Italy[18] for supporting ‘economic relations’ between Italy and the Emirates. In 2013, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)[19] and received the Grand Gwanghwa Medal, the highest class of the Order of the Diplomatic Service of South Korea[20].

Also in 2013, he was awarded the Leonardo International Prize[21]. He received the Asian Business Leadership Forum award in 2016[22] and was named one of the 100 most influential and powerful Arabs in the world in 2017[23] and 2018[24] by Arabian Business as he was responsible for $127.8 billion in investments for the Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Fund. He is Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Executive Affairs Authority, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Emirates Global Aluminium, the Manchester City, New York and Melbourne football clubs[25], and is a member of the UAE Supreme Petroleum Council[26].

He was awarded the French Legion of Honour[27] in 2022 and is one of the main personal advisors to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE[28]. He also holds important positions of responsibility in the UAE and Abu Dhabi governments, including special envoy to China[29]. Like all powerful men of the Emirates his main day-to-day activity is that of CEO, specifically of Mubadala Development Company, the beating heart of the Emirati monarchy, with $284 billion in annual turnover and activities in over 50 countries[30].

Mubadala builds the country’s future in all the industrial, tourist and real estate projects in which it has participated, is involved or which it manages in person, including a $5 billion aluminium plant in Saudi Arabia, 7.5% of the Carlyle Group, 5% of Ferrari in Maranello[31]. Some of its subsidiaries have begun another multi-billion dollar investment in renewable energy infrastructure[32]. All very important things, but which pale in comparison to the major activity of Mubadala and its parent company, Tawazun Holdings[33]: the military and cyber-espionage industry[34]. Not only that. In contrast to the Western world, the Emirates (and Al Mubarak) invest in newspapers: The National, the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times[35].

The next step was the partnership with Arvato Middle East Sales[36], a subsidiary of the German Bertelsmann publishing group[37], to launch a download service called Getmo – and in September 2008, in combination with the launch of Imagenation Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of the billion-dollar film fund[38]. All of which contribute to influencing editorial policy[39] and censoring themes and topics contrary to the Emirati government’s agenda[40].

The weight of Mubadala

A photo from the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Championships – sponsored by Mubadala[41]

The Mubadala Group is a UAE state-owned company (a sovereign wealth fund) established in 2017 following the merger of the Mubadala Development Company[42] and the International Petroleum Investment Company[43] with headquarters in Abu Dhabi and offices in New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, San Francisco and Beijing[44]. Together with the EDGE Group and the Royal Group, it constitutes a kind of trinity of Emirati power. It is the result of the collaboration between two key figures in the UAE: brothers Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The former took over his family’s military industry, the Mubadala Group, transforming it into an investment holding company in which hi-tech, real estate and the insurance sector play a preponderant part in the construction of the turnover[45], and then built a new entity, the EDGE Group, to bring together all the companies that concern security: electronic systems for air and ground defence, missiles and electronically guided weapons, cybersecurity and cyber-warfare, training of special troops with special weapons for overtly military missions, or secret actions in the territory of others[46].

The second, less well known, founded the Royal Group, an industrial conglomerate that, without the public ever noticing, has bought up many small companies in 90 countries around the world (it has almost 28,000 employees) and is involved in tourism[47] , healthy fast-food (the worldwide chain of Popeye’s restaurants[48]), renewable energy[49] and health programmes (also connected to spiritualism and mysticism, due to Tahnoun’s great passion for jujitsu and martial arts based on self-control[50]) for high-end tourism[51].

But all this always has a military development. Not only because Tahnoun sponsors the military fair organised annually by his brother Mohammed, IDEX, but because he participates in it by offering psychological training and special soldier training services connected to robotics systems (such as the Hollywood products Star Trek, Terminator or Robocop, partly man and partly machine)[52] for Emirati mercenaries and soldiers working for EDIC, Mohammed’s company that is in charge of military actions in Yemen and Libya and that organised and led the coup d’état in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood and now controls Egyptian society with terror[53].

What is most frightening of all is the fact that with Abu Dhabi, under the protection of Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al Nhyan, today collaborate the magnates of military espionage and global mercenary business, such as the American Erik Prince and the Russian Kirill Dimitriev, who (for now) are in charge of arresting torture and kill activists of all nationalities adverse to the interests of the Emirates (such as the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi) and, to run this very special service, they have hired one of the most feared assassins and ethnic cleansing directors in history, Mohammed Dahlan[54], as director-general.

Colombia’s gold

The idyllic Colombian landscape to be gutted by the Minesa mine[55]

Mohammed and Tahnoun Bin Zayed al Nahyan, like Hollywood characters, play good brother and bad brother, trying to appear independent of each other – a simple matter in the face of a distracted and superficial world public opinion. Amongst their loyal collaborators is Khaldūn Al-Mubārak, who is in charge of the part of the business that is best known. As in Colombia, where Mubadala owns the Sociedad Minera de Santander-Minesa [56], which has obtained a licence from the Colombian government to extract the huge gold reserves, estimated at around 9 million ounces, in the Páramo de Santurbán[57].

The project, estimated to be worth USD 5 billion, promises a fiscal return of around USD 100 million in royalties per year and, thanks to state-of-the-art technology for safety, efficiency and profitability, will improve the lives of local communities, contributing to the economic development of Santander and Colombia[58]. Mubadala promised not to use mercury and cyanide in mining operations so as not to damage the quantity and quality of water supplied to the Bucaramanga aqueduct[59]. In fact, the Emiratis have removed about 360 tonnes of mercury-contaminated sand from the water sources and started a reforestation project involving 88,000 trees[60]. Nothing doing: the water is polluted, even though the new ownership blames the damage done by its predecessors[61].

The Colombian government, so far split into different factions, has done nothing to change this[62]. A new ruling, following the appeal filed by Mineta, came on 21 January 2021, and with it the final archiving of the environmental licence requested by Minesa, a request that is unlikely to be granted in the future given the opposition to any industrial mining in the region expressed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro on 3 February 2023[63].

The United Arab Emirates, once it acquired the rights to the large open-pit mine (2015), paid almost a billion dollars to implement social projects in the Santurban area and USD 45 million to support the peace process of President Juan Manuel Santos’ government with the FARC[64]. Ensuring the honesty of Abu Dhabi’s intentions is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his dual position as an advisor simultaneously in the pay of both the United Arab Emirates and the then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos[65].

The agreement between Bogotá and the Emirates goes through a series of intermediate steps, the first of which is a new Colombian tax law, which stipulates that the royalties from the mine are to be paid into the state coffers and not into those of the local administrations, thus strengthening the weight of the central government[66]. In this way, Bogota has 3 billion dollars in its hands, which it has committed to spend on purchases of military and industrial products from the Emirates, which at the same time paid for the expensive consultancy to Colombia provided by Blair[67]. He reported on his actions (and took orders) personally from Khaldūn al-Mubārak[68] whose industrial advisor in the military branch of Mubadala became a year after his resignation[69] – this at a time when Blair was also the official UN representative in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, knowing that Abu Dhabi is on the side of Jerusalem, against the Palestinian people[70].

The sport, the image, the substance

Manchester City president Khaldoon Al Mubarak with coach Pep Guardiola[71]

A decade after the UAE acquired Manchester City, Football Leaks documents revealed that Abu Dhabi’s owner and chairman circumvented the Financial Fair Play regulations introduced by UEFA, so that Mansour bin Zayed and Khaldūn al-Mubārak were accused by Amnesty International of attempting to “wash the deeply tarnished image” of their country through sport by channelling money into the club[72]. In 2018, a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel, based on emails and internal documents, claimed that Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) funded the sponsorship itself: in other words, to circumvent the rules, money directed by the Emirates owners was transferred to sponsor companies, such as Etihad Airways and Aabar Investment, from which it was transferred into the club’s coffers[73]. ADUG’s accounts were found to be managed by Khaldūn al-Mubārak’s Abu Dhabi government agency, in an open conflict of interest[74].

The Emirati owners allegedly created a ‘closed payment circuit’, centred on a shell company, Fordham Sports Management, in order to pay players for their image rights – rights that are usually paid by the home club. In the case of Manchester City Fordham receives £11 million a year from the Abu Dhabi owners, which has allowed the club to hide its expenses and save €30 million in marketing revenue[75]. At the head of this circuit would be an Australian, Simon Pearce, who would answer directly to Khaldūn al-Mubārak[76].

Manchester City in the face of all this has merely pointed out the irregularity of the method by which the documents were obtained, but has not commented on or disputed their contents[77]. In March 2019, UEFA opened its investigation into the club’s alleged breach of the rules[78] and in February 2020 the club was banned from the Champions League for 2 years, with a fine of €30 million[79]. The sanction was reduced to only a fine of EUR 10 million in July 2020 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, reasoning that the allegations were ‘either not established or time-barred’[80]. But the situation did not improve. In February 2023, Manchester City was placed under investigation by the Premier League, after a four-year investigation, for providing misleading information on finances for nine years[81].

These examples show how dangerous lobbying can be when there is no money to spend, and when the controlled and the controller are the same person, because those ‘selling the image’ of the Emirates are members of the royal family, heads of industry and finance – roles all focused on the same people. Of course: Manchester City fans are happy like that. But at stake here is the independence of the European Union, and the question of the integrity of politicians, like Blair, who agree to work as employees of a foreign country.



















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