Qatari princess in custody row dies in Marbella

Summary: a Qatari princess who publicly criticised a senior member of the Qatari royal family died on Sunday in Marbella in unexplained circumstances. 

Princess Kasia Al Thani, 45 (Kasia Gallanio) was the third wife of Sheikh Abdelaziz bin Khalifa Al Thani, 73, the elder half-brother of the father of the present Emir of Qatar. For months the couple have been locked in a high-profile custody battle in a Paris court marked by  allegations of sexual abuse.

Le Parisien reported the princess’s death yesterday:

According to our information, Kasia Gallanio was found dead on Sunday morning at her home in Marbella, Spain. The former companion of Abdelaziz bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the uncle of the Emir of Qatar, was 45 years old. Spanish justice has ordered an autopsy of the body, scheduled for Tuesday. According to the first elements of the investigation, the death could be due to a drug overdose.

Princess Kasia Al Thani
Princess Kasia Al Thani (1977 – 2022)

As the first son and eldest child of the eighth Emir, Sheikh Abdulaziz used to be a power player in the Qatari royal family and at one time was even considered a likely contender to be Emir himself. Instead he served as Qatari oil minister and minister of finance between 1972 and 1992.

His political career ended and he became marginalised from power by the 1995 coup that brought Sheikh Hamad to the throne, driving him into exile in Europe where French media reports he lives a reclusive life of luxury in a 5000 square metre palace  situated on Avenue Montaigne, Paris.

But Sheikh Abdulaziz has never abandoned his opposition to the current Qatari regime.

He was reported to have been involved in the failed coup in 2011 which was supported by 66 opposition leaders including 16 members of the Al Thani, and during the height of the feud between Qatar and the Quartet (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and UAE) Quartet media described him as leader of Qatar’s opposition.

In 2017 Arab News reported:

In the Swiss city of Geneva, an opposition coalition was created to form a national salvation government. The coalition is comprised of leaders from the ruling family who declare that they are the legitimate rulers. The coalition is headed by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir’s uncle, who is currently residing in Geneva.

His late wife Princess Kasia was born in Krakow before moving to the US when still a child. She studied at state university in California and worked briefly for Morgan Stanley before her life changed completely in 2004 when she met her husband on a visit to Paris while taking a break from her studies. She never returned to college and instead, after a whirlwind romance, the pair married and went on to have three daughters: Sheikha Malak, Sheikha Yasmin and Sheikha Reem.

After that, Princess Kasia appeared in all respects to be a picture perfect Qatari princess, although she preferred living in Marbella to Qatar. In 2009 she even won an undisclosed sum from Barclays Bank after helping her husband win a legal claim over an alleged €50m (£48m) fraud.

But she claimed her husband never reciprocated her loyalty and during the course of their marriage she alleged he went on to abuse both her and one of their children.

On April 14 Sheikh Khalifa and Princess Kasia’s 17-year-old daughter filed a complaint in a French court accusing her father of sexual assault when she was aged between 9 and 15 years old.

On 13 March Princess Kasia gave an interview in French to Le Parisien about her case. This was followed by another interview in English on April 17 to the Women’s World Show, during which the princess stated she had decided to go public because “it’s time to speak up. It’s time to let people know that it’s not all glamour and perfect.” Her court battle, she said, was on behalf of her children: “I also get criticized that I want money, but I have to also raise my kids. My whole life was taking care of my children. “

On the allegations of sexual abuse she said she was fighting for all women:

Look, when you hurt somebody, no matter who you are or what you are, you must have the punishment. I hope it’s not true. However, when my daughter says that, I do believe my daughter. Unfortunately, it’s a horrible story. Something that really hit me very hard.

My advice is – everybody has a different situation – but my advice is you have to speak up. If you have abuse you can’t just not say anything.

An autopsy is scheduled today, Tuesday, to establish the cause of the princess’s death.

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