UAEGate: Classified documents expose Emirati instigation across continents targeting a thousand Europeans
Classified documents revealed Emirati instigation across continents targeting the defamation of nearly a thousand European individuals, falsely linking them to “extremist Islam.”
The online platform Daraj began publishing a series of investigations into the activities of the Swiss intelligence company ALP established on secret documents obtained through a breach of ALP Services.
In 2018, the story of Manal Ebtissam, a French-Syrian participant in the French edition of The Voice,” gained prominence after she withdrew from the program due to a social media campaign targeting her hijab.
However, at that time, it was not known who was behind this campaign. It has now been revealed that Manal’s name was listed on a “target” list prepared by the Swiss company ALP on behalf of the UAE, aiming to eliminate its activities in Europe due to allegations of its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Swiss agency ALP Services sent the names of more than 1,000 Europeans, including over 200 French individuals, to Abu Dhabi intelligence, often misclassifying them as Islamists close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Benoît Hamon, Samia Ghal, and the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research, were among these arbitrary actions’ victims.
The shocking headline Transcontinental Mafia Network describes a map sent to intelligence agencies in the UAE, outlining hundreds of individuals scattered across Europe, supposedly connected and presumed to be a network of extremist Islamists.
This terrifying map is the work of the Swiss private intelligence company Alp Services. Previously, Mediapart and The New Yorker had exposed some of the tricks performed by this agency on behalf of Abu Dhabi, but today we are faced with a bigger shock.
The documents reveal that between 2017 and 2020, ALP Services provided names and information about more than 1,000 individuals and over 400 organizations allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in eighteen European countries. The list included over 200 individuals and 120 organizations in France.
This classification was conducted outside any legal framework; many names included had no connection to extremist Islam.
Among them, for example, were former presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, former deputy mayor of Marseille and former member of the Senate Samia Ghal, writer and director Rokhaya Diallo, and a journalist from Mediapart.
In addition to the Bondy Blog and the La France insoumise party led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, even the CNRS, the national public research organization in France, was included.
Some names were placed alongside convicted terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda. In some cases, their phone numbers and personal details were mentioned.
Anyone mentioned in the list was considered close to or supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf state with an oppressive regime that persecutes any opposition.
The victims’ reactions to this classification ranged from astonishment and anger to fear. Benoît Hamon commented, “It is dreadful,” Samia Ghal angrily stated. “I will not let this matter pass. French justice and authorities must investigate, and they must explain it to us.” One CNRS researcher, who preferred not to be named, said, “I will think carefully before travelling to the UAE.”
The man who led this operation is named Mario Brero, a 71-year-old expert in private investigations and the founder of Alp Services agency, based in Geneva for over thirty years.
Brero refused to answer our questions, and his lawyers, Christian Lüscher and Yoann Lambert, claimed that our documents were “partially forged” and that “most of the facts forming the basis of our questions are based on false and/or imaginary assumptions.”
They also expressed their regret for our use of “stolen data” and threatened to sue us in Switzerland for financial compensation for the “damage” that may be caused to them.
How did the story begin?
It all started on August 7, 2017, at a luxurious hotel in Abu Dhabi, where Mario Brero and one of his assistants were the guests of an Emirati intelligence officer named Matar.
Upon arrival, Brero, the head of ALP, sent a text message to Matar: “Dear Matar, we are in Abu Dhabi at the magnificent Fairmont Suites. Thank you for your hospitality. We are entirely at your disposal.”
The man, who preferred to stay out of the spotlight, seemed utterly unguarded. He took pictures of himself drinking by the pool’s edge and even took a picture of his forty-something-year-old agent, meticulously bearded and wearing a Gulf robe.
During dinner at the hotel’s restaurant that night, Brero presented Matar with the plan his agency had prepared two weeks prior. It was a large-scale operation aimed at “mapping” and “tarnishing the reputation” of the enemies of the UAE by disseminating damaging information secretly and extensively.
Throughout 2017, Brero made numerous trips to Abu Dhabi, during which Matar introduced the Swiss investigators to his boss, Ali Saeed Al Neyadi, the real decision-maker. The man’s mission was to lead a local team responsible for crisis and natural disaster management.
However, his group was directly linked to the UAE’s Special Operations Command, the armed wing of Emirati intelligence.
Brero worked on convincing the Emirati intelligence officials that Alp Services worked for “wealthy individuals, governments, leaders of countries, multinational companies, and law firms.” He promised to leverage a network of journalists, consultants, and investigators.
Brero’s arguments were compelling. The first contract was signed in October 2017, and according to the documents we reviewed, Alp Services received at least 5.7 million euros between 2017 and 2020, paid through an Emirati research centre called Al Aryaf, which serves as a cover for Emirati intelligence agencies.
The operations were named “Arnica” or “Crocus,” after the famous flowers of the Swiss mountains. The targets were Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, Abu Dhabi’s primary concerns. Brero skillfully exploited his client’s sentiments towards them by offering colourful missions aimed at dismantling the Brotherhood networks, which he proposed to “uncover” and “destroy” by influencing public opinion and decision-makers, including politicians.
The Muslim Brotherhood organization was founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna as a response to British colonialism. It advocated for political Islam and an anti-Western discourse, calling for a return to traditional values and ethics, including women’s roles and the imposition of the hijab. However, the UAE does not hate the Muslim Brotherhood for ideological reasons.
The rise of Brotherhood-affiliated leaders in Tunisia and Egypt following the Arab uprisings in 2011 sparked fears among some Gulf princes of being overthrown. The support provided by Qatar to the Brotherhood further escalated tensions, reaching their peak between 2017 and 2021 when a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE imposed a blockade on Qatar.
Despite seeming distant, this geopolitical context led to hundreds of Europeans becoming victims of Abu Dhabi’s revenge. To achieve this, ALP produced dozens of reports dedicated to individuals and a network of relationships in each country. The proposed offer aligned with the client’s desires: bloodstains and a colourful map of Europe bearing the Muslim Brotherhood logo and references to the “mafia.”
After reviewing the complete list, Abu Dhabi could request additional services to attack chosen targets, paying between 20,000 and 50,000 euros per person. This could include aggressive means such as press campaigns, articles published through fake accounts, modifications to Wikipedia pages, and even operations to persuade banks to close accounts.
This is what happened to Hazem Nada, a businessman residing in Switzerland and the CEO of an oil trading company who went bankrupt due to a special operation conducted by ALP.
France was one of the countries where the Swiss agency was most active. The “Muslim Brotherhood in France December 2020” map alone contained 191 names and 125 organizations. However, a closer look at the chart reveals the incoherence of its information.
It is a random compilation of names and organizations without any clear, logical connection, artificially linking them to public figures.
For example, religious figures and activists in religious associations were linked to anti-racist activists like Rokhaya Diallo or three officials of the Coexister association, which focused on youth, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue and received the Secularism Award from the French Republic in 2016.
The map also includes Samia Ghali, the deputy mayor of Marseille and former member of the Socialist Party, alongside Taha Bouhafs, a journalist and activist in the “La France Insoumise” movement.
It also includes the name Hakim El Karoui, known as Monsieur Islam from the Montaigne Institute, and Mennel Ibtissem, a former candidate on The Voice.
Among the names, two researchers from the prestigious School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and three members of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) were also listed on this map.
Regarding the media, alleged members of this mysterious organization included journalists from Mediapart, the Bondy Blog, and the Orient XXI platform, founded by Alain Gresh, the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique.
Gresh comments, saying, “The UAE is one of the worst dictatorships, and it is not surprising that they are clients of those who have a conspiratorial view of Islam, and those who hold this conspiratorial view have succeeded in infiltrating everything, including the media.”
It is the modern-day “Je Suis Partout” (I am everywhere), says Gresh, recalling the French newspaper that was associated with fascist regimes during World War II (the newspaper was published between 1939 and 1944).
Among the politicians, the name of the former candidate of the Socialist Party in the presidential elections, Benoît Hamon, appears, as well as the La France Insoumise party led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who presents himself as a “political supporter” of the Muslim Brotherhood through a presentation describing the alleged European network as a “type of criminal gang.”
In Belgium, the name of the Minister for Climate Zakia Khattabi was included in the map of local Islamists. Her party, Écolo, considered the operation “despicable” and added that the information was illogical and absurd to the point that it did not deserve any comment or attention.
In the United Kingdom, former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was included in the report as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, ALP Services also placed Swedish and Danish figures on the same map.