Last updated 4 June 2021


Qatar is an authoritarian state with strict judicial contraints on freedom of expression. Detainees are subject to beatings and cruel treatment while a great many immigrant workers are trapped in conditions of forced labour.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups. Qatar denies the claim.

In September 2018 Qatar finalised a deal with BAE Systems to buy 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft as well as nine Hawk trainers. This deal is underwritten by £4.5billion export credit guarantees, that is, UK government assurance that BAE will be paid.

Corruption allegations

BAE Systems was part of a consortium which won a record £500million deal to sell military hardware, including Hawk aircraft, to Qatar in 1996. £7million commission was alleged to have been paid into three Jersey trust funds under the control of Qatar’s then Foreign Minister. A criminal investigation began in Jersey in 2000, but ended in 2002 on public interest grounds. The Qatari Foreign Minister denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay Jersey £6million for perceived damage.

In 2004, the UK Serious Fraud Office began investigating claims of corruption involving BAE and several countries, including Qatar. The SFO clearly stopped its inquiry into Qatar at some point, as it ceased to mention it. However, the SFO refused to say when it ended.

Key statistics

£384 million

UK military export licences to Qatar 2015-18



Number of companies that applied for UK military export licences to Qatar in the last three years



Largest importer of major arms in the world during 2015–19



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