Stephane Morello, a French former coach, is taking legal action against the emir of Qatar for multiple contractual violations, his lawyer Frank Berton told AFP on Wednesday.
Berton, based in Lille, said that Morello was pursuing Sheikh al-Thani “for concealment of fraud, undignified working conditions and attempted extortion” following a spell working in the Gulf state that turned sour.
Morello was recruited by Doha-based side Al-Shahaniya Sports Club and was sponsored by Qatar’s Olympic Committee, whose president is Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
He received his salary between the summer of 2007 and 2008 but, his lawyer claims, his contract was then unilaterally broken and he was not paid during a three-month period.
In October 2008, he was signed by Al-Shamal, but they also stopped paying him in December that year.
Without an exit visa and with no income, Morello was then put under pressure by the Qatar Olympic Committee to pay back 250,000 euros ($345,000) relating to the lodgings that had been provided to him in his contract.
Morello eventually acknowledged the debt in October 2013 to be able to change his sponsor and therefore be able to leave the country.
In the meantime, Al-Thani had become the emir in June 2013.
The case is similar to that of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who was finally allowed to leave Qatar in November last year after being forced to stay in the country for 17 months because his club refused him an exit visa.
Belounis had not been able to leave the host nation of the 2022 World Cup due to a pay dispute with his club Al-Jaish, whose chairman Sheikh Joaan Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmad al-Thani is the emir’s brother.
He was also only able to return home after obtaining his exit visa, which is usually controlled by employers in the Gulf state under the controversial “kafala”, or sponsorship system.
For that, he said he had to sign a letter dating back to February last year announcing his sacking and forego a contract that was due to run until June 2015, thereby losing out on up to 150,000 euros ($200,000).
Berton, also acting for Belounis, said he would file suit in Paris for fraud, working in inhuman conditions and extortion.