UK authorities investigate Qatar-owned bank over money laundering controls

A British bank owned by Qatar and linked to Islamist organizations is under investigation over its money laundering controls. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 August 2019
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UK authorities investigate Qatar-owned bank over money laundering controls

  • Probe into Al Rayan by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was launched last year
  • Al Rayan, headquartered in Birmingham in central England, is the UK’s largest and oldest Islamic bank

LONDON: A British bank owned by Qatar and linked to Islamist organizations is under investigation over its money laundering controls.
The probe into Al Rayan by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was launched last year and earlier this year the bank has been restricted on who it can open deposit accounts for.
The details of the investigation have surfaced weeks after it was reported the bank was providing financial services to numerous organizations linked to Islamist groups.
Among its account holders are groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a charity banned in the US as a terrorist entity, groups that promote hard-line preachers, and a mosque whose trustee is a Hamas leader.
The bank’s annual report filed in May said Al Rayan’s “anti-money laundering (AML) processes and controls have been placed under formal review by the Financial Conduct Authority, which has led to ongoing investment in enhanced AML processes.”
The FCA restrictions mean the bank must not accept or process any new deposit account applications from  a “person categorized as high risk for the purposes of financial crime risk” and “politically exposed persons” or their families and close associates.
Al Rayan, headquartered in Birmingham in central England, is the UK’s largest and oldest Islamic bank. It is 70 percent by Qatar’s Masraf Al Rayan and 30 percent by Qatar Holding.
The FCA says banks are required to “apply risk-based customer due diligence” to prevent their services “being used for money laundering or terrorist financing.” 
Pressure on the Al Rayan comes as Qatar continues to be accused of supporting Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha’s alleged funding of extremists in the Middle East was central to the decision by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to launch a boycott of the tiny emirate in 2017.
A spokesperson for Al Rayan said it “voluntarily agreed to place a temporary restriction on new deposit accounts for individuals classified as ‘high risk’ or ‘politically exposed'," following discussions with the FCA. The bank “is committed to ensuring that our risk management policies and practices remain appropriate for a bank of our size and complexity.”

 


Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 9 min 54 sec ago

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."