A senior British executive at a subsidiary of Qatar Airways was found hanged in a Doha hotel room just ten weeks after being detained and allegedly tortured by Qatar’s secret police over allegations that he sent highly confidential business correspondence to a private email address.
The explosive allegations reported by The Times, Britain’s oldest national daily newspaper, reveal how authorities in Qatar rushed to rule Marc Bennett’s death a suicide despite their counterparts in the UK declaring that there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent”.
Bennett was allegedly snatched from the offices of Qatar Airways in Doha by the secret police and taken blindfolded to a notorious detention centre where he was stripped naked and had water from a high-pressure hose blasted on his genitals.
He was kept in custody for three weeks where, it is claimed, he was “slammed against walls and subjected to sleep deprivation techniques”.
Described as a “leading light in the travel industry”, Bennett was poached by Qatar’s tourism authority, Discover Qatar, in 2017. As senior vice president of the organisation, he was charged with developing the country’s tourism industry in time for the FIFA World Cup which will be held in less than two months’ time.
Bennett had worked to improve the image of Qatar, where allegations of human rights abuses were rife, and was said to work closely with Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker. Discover Qatar is part of Qatar Airways which is owned by the Qatari government.
But two years later, Bennett decided to accept a job offer from a Saudi Arabian company. The decision was seen as a “massive insult” according to an anonymous source quoted by The Times.
At the time, Qatar was subject to a physical and political blockade by several regional neighbours led by Saudi Arabia. Al Baker had described the “illegal” blockade as an “act of war”.
Bennet was due to leave Qatar for London on October 15, 2019, but he ran into problems. His tickets kept on getting cancelled, and two days later he was asked to come to Qatar Airways’ head office in Doha where the police were waiting for him.
His widow tells The Times that he was released from detention on November 10, 2019, but he was barred from leaving the country, and his passport had been confiscated.
On Christmas Day 2019, Bennett was found dead. He had not left a suicide note.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office got involved in the case, but in a bizarre twist, diplomats dropped the case just a week after Prime Minister Liz Truss became foreign secretary.
Coincidentally, Truss visited Qatar a month later and within months, the Qatari government unveiled a £10 billion investment package in Britain.
Qatar’s government did not respond to requests for comment from The Times journalists but in a detailed statement, Qatar Airways said:
“Marc Bennett was a valued and popular former colleague of Qatar Airways Group who made a significant contribution to our business and, while we were sad to see him leave the business, he left with our best wishes. Marc’s former colleagues at Qatar Airways were shocked to hear of his tragic death and we provided assistance to his family by way of a contribution towards repatriation costs and certain travel and other costs.”
“On 15 October Marc left the business and evidence subsequently came to light showing that over a significant period of time Marc had emailed highly confidential documents relating to Qatar Airways to a private email address without authorisation. Marc was still in Qatar at the point this discovery was made. He was arrested and this then became a police matter.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.