Qatar tightens money laundering controls


A  surge in suspected money laundering deals has prompted Doha to tighten its control of banks and other financial institutions in Qatar despite the prior existence of several anti-laundering units, a senior Qatari official said.

Besides its National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financial Information Unit, Qatar is now planning to create a new department to oversee the operations of its banks, stock market, and other financial institutions.

Fahd bin Faisal Al Thani, Deputy Governor of Qatar’s Central Bank, said: “The authorities are now working towards establishing a new unit called the Qatari Authority for Financial Control, which will be affiliated to the cabinet and comprise all monitoring bodies in the financial sector.”

In a paper to the Financial Action Task Force in the Middle East and North Africa, which concluded a three-day meeting in Abu Dhabi this week, Al Thani said: “We have already set up a team comprising representatives from the Central Bank, the Qatari Securities Authority, the Qatar Financial Centre and an international consultant.

This team has conducted a high-level assessment of banks and financial institutions in Qatar.” He said the assessment was carried out through a questionnaire distributed to all the institutions surveyed as well as through field visits and meetings with officials.
“The purpose of this assessment was to prepare a comprehensive study on the financial sector in Qatar to help enact the right legislation and controls and ensure proper monitoring and surveillance,” Al Thani said.

He added that such plans were part of a strategy to curb money laundering and other financial crimes in Qatar and the Gulf country’s efforts in this regard had been assessed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We are in the process of establishing an active partnership with the IMF assessment teams to fully utilise their experience in fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism in line with international criteria,” Al Thani said.
In its 2007 report presented to the meeting, the Qatari Financial Information Unit said notifications about suspect financial transactions in Qatar had increased sharply in the past two years. It attributed this to growing financial activity and stronger co-operation from the relevant authorities.

From 62 in 2005, the number of reports on suspect money deals rose to 77 in 2006 and jumped to 147 in 2007. The cases in 2007 involved 288 people and included transfer of large funds, change of currencies, requests for large credits and other financial facilities, depositing large sums of money, credit card abuse, failure to comply with account requirements and other offences.

The figures showed that 66 cases in 2007 were reported by banks while 39 were reported by the interior ministry and other authorities, 31 by money changers, and 11 by international financial intelligence units.

“The increase in notifications about suspect financial operations was due to several factors,” the report said. “They include the rise in the numbers of informants, stronger co-operation among the authorities, growing awareness among law enforcers and the steady expansion in financial activities by banks and money changers.”