Saudi institute gears up to tackle organized crime

Saudi institute gears up to tackle organized crime
A panel session on ‘Enhancing Cross-Border Enforcement and Asset Recovery Mechanisms,’ on Wednesday in Riyadh. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 15 May 2024
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Saudi institute gears up to tackle organized crime

Saudi institute gears up to tackle organized crime
  • Riyadh forum pushes for stronger global efforts to combat financial crimes

RIYADH: Legal enforcement agencies must outperform organized crime groups by “miles, not just steps,” to prevent criminal alliances forming and flowing across borders, a major Riyadh forum on combating corruption has been told.

In a speech on “Building Human Capabilities to Fight Corruption and Fraud” delivered at the Arab Forum of Anti-Corruption Agencies and Financial Intelligence Units on Wednesday, Abdulmajeed bin Abdullah Al-Banyan, president of Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, said that developing strategies to fight organized crime “presents a significant challenge for both the creators and enforcers of these initiatives.”

He added:  “They must ensure that the individuals they train will gain superior knowledge and skills compared to even the most adept criminal organizations as the crimes in question are intricate in nature, often orchestrated by sophisticated transnational gangs that leverage cyberspace and technology to perpetrate their illegal activities while evading detection.”

Organized crime encompasses terrorist groups, drug trafficking, money laundering, migrant smuggling, and human trafficking.

Naif Arab University for Security Sciences examined specialized training programs in the field of economic crime as part of a survey of the Arab region in 2018 . 

“We noticed a shortage in the number and type of programs available compared with other regions of the world,” said Al-Banyan. 




A panel session on ‘Enhancing Cross-Border Enforcement and Asset Recovery Mechanisms,’ on Wednesday in Riyadh. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

As a result, the university — the scientific body of the Arab Interior Ministers Council — made fighting economic crime one of its main priorities.

“We launched several master’s programs aimed at building capabilities in this field, the most important of which is the master’s program in financial integrity in cooperation with Case Western Reserve University in the US, which specifically aims to prepare experts in combating money fraud,” he said.

The university provides a master’s program in dealing with economic crimes, including corruption and financial fraud, and a master’s program in digital forensic investigation, which focuses on combating cybercrime and suspicious activities online. 

NAUSS also launched a new master’s program in artificial intelligence this year, Al-Banyan said.

“We are currently considering adding a new master’s program in forensic accounting, which aims to qualify accountants to detect fraudulent financial practices, and qualifies them to conduct detailed financial investigations and reviews,” he added.

The university signed a memorandum of understanding with the Presidency of State Security in 2016 as part of its efforts  to increase its work with key local and international partners.

“We strengthened our relations with the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), and today, we will witness the MoU signing on the sidelines of this forum,” he added. 




A panel session on ‘Enhancing Cross-Border Enforcement and Asset Recovery Mechanisms,’ on Wednesday in Riyadh. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

The university has partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, establishing a joint center at its headquarters to support the international and Arab community in combating organized crime, corruption, and money laundering.

Experts highlighted that fighting economic and financial crimes is a complex task that requires clear national strategies and effective cross-border cooperation. 

Countries must work together to counter the threat posed by such crimes, which have the potential to severely damage economies and undermine financial systems. 

Hassan Mohamud, Somalia’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, told the forum that continuing conflict in Somalia has created a “complex money laundering landscape,” making international cooperation crucial for identifying and returning illicit funds.

Speaking during a panel session on “Enhancing Cross-Border Enforcement and Asset Recovery Mechanisms,” Mohamud said that judicial cooperation between countries, and the public and private sectors, is key to addressing these evolving issues.

“The need for sharing information on cross-border flows of money is important to combat money laundering effectively not just in Somalia, but globally,” he said.

In a keynote speech on “National Strategies: Risk Assessment in the Light of Rapidly Changing Realities,” Raed Radwan, head of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, said: “A national strategy directs efforts and resources fairly and effectively toward achieving specific goals to reduce financial crimes, and enhance integrity and transparency in the financial and economic system.”

He added that citizens have an important role to play in monitoring and reporting crimes, and raising awareness of likely threats.

“Reinforcement training is an awareness-raising activity usually supported by national strategies. It is not limited to employees, but should be available to citizens who wish to acquire knowledge to protect them and make them partners in combating these crimes,” he said.

National strategies also must include a continuous assessment of the risks surrounding financial crimes.

“This basis for evaluation can provide stakeholders with a view of the developments that perpetrators of financial crime can resort to or already resort to,” he said.

Radwan added that political and economic stability are key factors when it comes to halting the rise in financial crimes, which is evident in unstable countries. 

“Financial crimes erode trust, affect economic and financial systems, leading to instability in the market, decreased investments, and hindered economic growth, resulting in financial crises,” he said.

Combating corruption and financial crimes is not the task of institutions based on and mandated by law, but is a participatory community task in which various societal sectors participate, Radwan said.


Sync Summit returns with digital call to action

Sync Summit returns with digital call to action
Updated 22 May 2024
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Sync Summit returns with digital call to action

Sync Summit returns with digital call to action
  • US activist urges children’s online safety regulations in sobering discussion
  • Well-known Emirati interviewer and entrepreneur Anas Bukhash moderated a talk titled “Turning Tides: Recalling Humanity in a Digital World”

DHAHRAN: “We have become more concerned with burnt toast than frying our brains,” Abdullah Al-Rashid, director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, told the attentive crowd at the opening of the Sync Summit, the two-day event which opened on Wednesday.
Sync Summit, first held in 2022, returned to Ithra with more sobering reminders of why now, more than ever, we need to reset our relationship with the digital world.
Well-known Emirati interviewer and entrepreneur Anas Bukhash returned to the Sync stage where he moderated a talk titled “Turning Tides: Recalling Humanity in a Digital World.” He offered insights as someone who owes his career to the power of the Internet but also recognizes many of its negative aspects.
“A knife can slice bread or stab someone,” Bukhash said, noting technology’s ability to be a tool to build or injure, depending on how one uses it.
His panel included Kristin Bride from the US, an activist focused on children’s safety regulations on social media, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“Four years ago was the worst day of my life,” Bride told the stunned crowd. Her son, who was in high school, was seemingly thriving, having just landed a summer job at a pizza parlor.
Bride recalled telling her son how proud she was. Her son described how much he was looking forward to the future, but just hours later, he died by suicide during the night.
The activist later found out that her son had been severely bullied on Snapchat by anonymous users. The hundreds of messages she saw when she opened her late son’s account were every mother’s worst nightmare.
Bride fears that young people today lack the tools or the coping mechanisms to deal with online bullying. For the last three years, she has worked tirelessly to advocate for stronger regulations for young users, seeking stricter rules against anonymous users and asking for accountability from Snapchat and Meta.
“I feel sorry for my role,” said Wozniak, mentioning how he holds some guilt in building what has become a tangled World Wide Web.
Social media algorithms track a user’s activity to tailor content, which can sometimes limit the human or organic aspect of social interactions online.
“It’s not just a ‘like’ … you trigger a hundred advertisers,” Wozniak said.
Meanwhile, in a fireside chat, Arab News reporter Lama Alhamawi spoke to legendary football manager Jose Mourinho, who offered his philosophy on the social media usage of football players, describing the role that technology plays in the world of sport.
The summit also included a panel on utilizing technological advancements and finding ways to enhance the accuracy of fake news detection, along with other sessions dedicated to AI and wellness in the digital realm.
Ithra offered other events in the main plaza as well as programs curated for diverse audiences at the Ithra Theater and Ithra Cinema.
The Sync Summit is livestreamed and can be accessed on the Ithra website and social media channels.


Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
Updated 22 May 2024
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Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
  • Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud
  • The director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority announced Wednesday that Allam, the AI generative platform serving Saudi Arabia and Arabic speakers around the world, was included in IBM’s watsonx data platform at the IBM Think 2024 conference in its pilot phase as one of the best generative models in Arabic in the world.
Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud.
In a speech at the annual conference, the director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA, Essam Al-Waqeet, commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities in enabling large language models and simplifying machine learning, as well as enhancing AI governance, compliance and hybrid cloud deployment flexibility, and praised the inclusion of Allam for global use, which significantly strengthens SDAIA’s position as a leader in the field of AI.
“It is acknowledged that large linguistic models trained on high-quality data are the basis for the successful implementation of generative AI, and Allam has been trained on more than 500 billion linguistic units in Arabic. We will seek to expand the addition of high-quality data and work to improve the accuracy of its models,” Al-Waqeet said.
He also reaffirmed the SDAIA’s commitment to make Allam the best generative AI model in the Arabic language in the world.
Al-Waqeet also invited the participants at the IBM Think 2024 to join the third Global Artificial Intelligence Summit, to be organized by the SDAIA in Riyadh from Sept. 10-12 later this year.


Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Updated 22 May 2024
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Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
  • The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system
  • Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah

RIYADH: The Haramain High Speed Railway offers pilgrims and travelers a safe and efficient way to navigate between holy sites.

The Saudi Press Agency recently witnessed the smooth operations at the Madinah station, the punctual arrivals and departures of trains carrying hundreds of pilgrims, Umrah performers, citizens and residents.

The train travels with regularity and is easy to use. At the station, SPA witnessed a streamlined process — travelers verify their reservations, head to the departure hall and board the train. The 13 rail cars offer ample seating. One car is dedicated to food and beverages.

Yahya Al-Sharqawi, from Egypt, expressed satisfaction with the ease and safety of the journey, highlighting the convenience of traveling directly from Jeddah airport to Madinah. He commended the Kingdom’s commitment to facilitating pilgrims’ movement.

Anwar Badr, another Egyptian visitor, was pleased with the many transportation options available, and the ease with which the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque can be reached, and expressed gratitude for the exceptional services provided to pilgrims.

Ali Rajabi, from Iran, echoed these sentiments, praising the comfort and convenience offered by the Haramain High Speed Railway. He said that the project serves pilgrims from all corners of the globe.

The Madinah station caters to travelers’ needs with a variety of amenities. Parking is available below the station, and self-service kiosks handle reservations and ticketing.

Information and assistance offices help to navigate the facilities. Multiple arrival and departure halls ensure smooth passenger flow, with seasonal halls specifically dedicated to serving pilgrims during peak periods.

For added convenience, the station boasts retail outlets selling food and beverages, as well as companies offering housing and car rental services. A permanent health center provides on-site medical care.

The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system. Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah.

This efficient and modern railway system is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s dedication to ensuring a smooth and fulfilling Hajj experience for all, SPA reported.


Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum
  • The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information is participating in the annual Conference of the International Federation of Surveyors in Accra, Ghana, from May 19-24.

The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities, aiming for a flexible environment and sustainable management of natural resources.

Attendees will exchange expertise and learn best practices in the field.

The Saudi authority delivered a technical presentation, “Surveying and Geospatial Information in Saudi Arabia: Past, Present, and Future Aspirations,” during the event, attended by FIG President Diane Dumashie, vice presidents and experts.

Saudi ambassador to Ghana and Togo, Sultan Al-Dakhil, visited the authority’s booth, appreciating its efforts to strengthen partnerships with international organizations.

With more than 1,500 participants from 80 countries, the conference facilitates international collaborations among government bodies, the private sector, academia, and global expertise centers through 70 scientific sessions.


Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

RIYADH: The Cultural Development Fund, a vital financial engine for Saudi Arabia’s culture sector, along with partners from the Kingdom’s film industry, are presenting film financing and investment opportunities at the 77th annual Cannes International Film Festival, held from May 14 to 25.

The fund is present at the festival for the third year, in line with its mission of nurturing the domestic film scene and strengthening its role as a key enabler of cultural growth.

The fund highlights its Film Sector Financing Program at the Saudi pavilion, led by the Film Commission. The program offers comprehensive financial packages that support the entire filmmaking process, from creation and production to distribution, for both local and foreign companies working on film and TV series in Saudi Arabia.

It also provides an opportunity for companies and investment funds to participate in the Kingdom’s film industry and contribute to its development.

Its participation in the Cannes event aligns with its continuous efforts to attract filmmakers and investment.

The fund aims to be a leader in the Saudi film industry and collaborates with other stakeholders to build a sustainable film sector that contributes to the national gross domestic product.

Established under the National Development Fund in 2021, the fund aims to invigorate Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene. By supporting a range of cultural endeavors and facilitating investment, the fund fosters a thriving domestic cultural sector, aligning with the National Culture Strategy and Saudi Vision 2030.