By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Video
SDNY COURTHOUSE, February 27 – With real estate firm Douglas Elliman as defendant, an intial pre-trial conference was scheduled for 5 pm on February 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Inner City Press went to cover it but found courtroom 12C empty. SDNY Judge Gregory Woods' clerk came out and asked, Are you Mr. Best? No.
It emerged that Mr. Best was not a lawyer but a pro se plaintiff (one representing himself). Like Inner City Press he'd had to leave his phone down on the first floor, and thereafter wandered floor to floor even as the clerk tried to call him. He has until 5:25, it was announced.
With ten seconds to spare he came in. Judge Woods gently admonished him, then asked for a big picture of the case. Mr. Best was terminated from his job at 212 Warren Street due to an leaking toilet in 9E. Douglas Elliman's lawyer said the Mr. Best hadn't responded to radio calls, and that in any event his employer was the owner of that building, not the management firm Douglas Elliman. Mr. Best disagreed and said he was ready for trial. But things don't move that fast, in the SDNY or more courts. Five month for discovery. A foreseeable motion for summary judgment. Time to decide that motion. Mr. Best was asked, Do you want mediation?
If it's amicable, he answered. He just wanted his job back, even part time. "My family is suffering," he said. The proceeding took an hour, and still he was out of a job. But he had this day in court, more than the victims of the United Nations or diplomats can say.
As Inner City Press has exclusively reported, the Qatar ruling family's abuse of employees and laws was exposed in an off the record initial conference across Pearl Street on February 14; Inner City Press was the only media present. Since its exclusive report that day, Inner City Press has been contacted by more employees and whistleblowers and a range of apparent legal violations by the Qatar royal family has come to light.
Beyond the failure to pay overtime which was the subject of the February 14 proceeding, Inner City Press is now informed that others of the Qatar royals' workers are brought in through JFK airport on private jets, into limousine that drive onto the tarmac. These employees are then made to work long hours with no protections in the mansion at 9 East 72nd Street in Manhattan.
Inner City Press is informed, tellingly, that one female worker from the Philippines in forced to sleep in front of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani's bedroom room so that she can be ready to bring him food or water or even give massages at any hour. His wife Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, the sister of Qatar's ruler, buys art for Qatar's museum and runs the "Reaching Out To Asia" foundation.Meanwhile her workers have their hair pulled and a tooth broken by her son. When workers are fired they are urged to fly to Doha where they would face arrest.
The scams work this way: the Qatari royals' employees signed contracts in Doha and then are told that their visas to the US, unless they are smuggled / trafficked in through the JFK Airport tarmac, are under the control of the royals. While waiting to be processed at JFK they are presented with a new less favorable contract and told if they do not sign it, they will not be admitted. If they work for the family in Qatar, they face imprisonment for any disagreement.
In New York the family's close protection guards, some without visas, brandish illegal large knives. NYPD was called when the royals sought to have one fired employee, Chantelle McGuffie, removed from her apartment at 221 East 50th Street near the UN. Still this family, these systematic crimes, have yet to be acted on by authorities including the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York despite the facts dragged through the SDNY court.
Inner City Press, in reporting this despite threats - at the UN, Qatar's state media Al Jazeera has worked with UNSG Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric to have Inner City Press roughed up and banned, see Columbia Journalism Review here - aims to put an end to this impunity. Watch this site.
Background: the sister of the ruler of Qatar is being sued by at least three employees who say they were made to work six days a week without being paid overtime, and were retaliated against. Inner City Press was the only media present at the initial pre trial conference on the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on February 14, and was tempted to object when the Qatari royal's lawyer from the Proskauer law firm urged SDNY Judge J. Paul Oetken for a confidentiality order.
Royals of a gas-rich emirate that has locked up poets for criticizing them, seeking to cover up their retaliation and refusal to pay overtime? It remains to be seen how much will be covered up in the case. The defendants are Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani and Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al- Thani.
From the answer to the Complaint: "Defendants admit that Mr. Bancroft began his employment in Doha, Qatar and that he accompanied Defendants when they moved to New York, but otherwise deny the allegations in Paragraph 39 of the Complaint. 40. Defendants deny the allegations in Paragraph 40 of the Complaint. 41. Defendants admit that Mr. Bancroft accompanied Defendants on their European travels in various countries during the summer of 2016, but upon information and belief, otherwise deny the allegations in Paragraph 41 of the Complaint. 42. Defendants admit that Mr. Bancroft accompanied Defendants on their trip to Qatar in the summer of 2017, but otherwise deny the allegations in Paragraph 42 of the Complaint. 43. Defendants admit that Mr. Bancroft accompanied Defendants on their European travels in various countries during the summer of 2018, but upon information and belief, otherwise deny the allegations in Paragraph 43 of the Complaint. 44. Defendants admit that Mr. Bancroft traveled with the family to Miami and Boston."
This is the life of corrupt royals and diplomats, such like those at the UN up to and including its Secretary General Antonio Guterres who lives alone in a $15 million mansion on Manhattan's Sutton Place (where he favors Qatar state media Al Jazeera, using it to oust the independent Press which questions him.) This is the world of immunity and impunity and now, it is urged, confidentiality. Inner City Press, now covering the SDNY daily, will have more on this.