By Anthony Harwood/Gulf Times Correspondent London
The man named as the leader of the hit squad which killed Jamal Khashoggi is at the centre of a $1bn lawsuit against Saudi Arabia for pirating the Premier League.
Saud al-Qahtani became a fall guy for the murder when he was fired as royal court adviser after claims he ordered the journalist’s death on Skype with the words: "Bring me the head of the dog."
It emerged on Wednesday that the 40-year-old has been named in legal documents saying that as the country’s Minister for Cyber Programming and Security he was behind mass piracy being carried out by a rogue TV station, called beoutQ.
The BBC and Sky demanded the EU take action against Saudi Arabia over beoutQ illegally supplying viewers with programmes such as The Bodyguard and Game of Thrones, both in the UK and Europe.
But when it was launched last year beoutQ was a geo-locked to Saudi Arabia as a rival to beIN Sports, the Qatari-based sports channel.
It was set up after Saudi Arabia launched a diplomatic, transport and trade boycott of Qatar which prevented its citizens from viewing crown jewel events which beIN Sports had exclusive rights to across the Middle East.
The Saudis provoked an outcry when they illegally tapped into the beIN feed and began pirating the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup, Premier League and Formula One.
The BBC and Sky asked for EU help after beoutQ began transmitting internationally on 10 channels via the Arabsat satellite, which is based in Riyadh and which has Saudi Arabia as its largest shareholder.
Al-Qahtani ran social media for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
On June 12 last year, just a week after the blockade of Qatar was launched, he sent three tweets in a half-hour period.
Reassuring people they would not miss out on big sporting events he tweeted: "The alternative solutions are coming soon and they are going to be free or for a low price."
Then he accused beIN Sports of using its monopoly on sports rights in the region to overcharge viewers and spread Qatari propaganda.
He tweeted: "It was their plan after buying the broadcasting rights five times the real value to insert political bulletins and programmes to damage international stability."
He also compared the situation to Britain and France where rivals, such as BT and Amazon, can operate as well as Sky, albeit legally.
He tweeted: "There is a big hole in the law in their monopoly to broadcast in the region. Revise the situation in Britain and France, for example…that is enough indication."
beIN Sports, which has 55mn pay-TV customers worldwide, launched a $1bn lawsuit against Saudi Arabia last month.
In documents it said: "beoutQ has been heavily promoted and discussed on social media by prominent Saudi citizens, including Mr Saud al-Qahtani, a consultant to the Saudi Royal Court who holds the rank of minister and is chairman of the Board of the Saudi Union for Cyber Programming Security."
As the Khashoggi crisis grew over the past month, Saudi Arabia has changed its tune on what happened to the Washington Post journalist, first denying his death, then saying he died during a brawl at the consulate in Istanbul, and now attributing the death to a chokehold.
According to Turkish sources, al-Qahtani, directed the 15-strong death squad to kill Khashoggi via a Skype call to the consulate, telling the operatives to "bring me the head of the dog."
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