Consortium Against Terrorist Finance Jul. 30, 2015, 9:54am

Qatar, like other member nations of the world financial community, enacted anti-money laundering (AML) laws as the “ticket” for becoming a respected member of that community. Coupled with administrative machinery to implement the new laws, these AML legal and policy “regimes”, as they are known, typically form a robust anti-crime foundation—that is, in committed nations. After 9/11, AML regimes were further strengthened by adding Countering Terrorism Finance (CFT) provisions, which included steps to prevent the diversion of contributions to Muslim charities that functioned as fronts to support extremist violence.

However, unlike most members of the international community, Qatar’s AML/CFT regime is held in low esteem by the US and multilateral bodies exercising an AML/CFT. In fact, Treasury Under Secretary Richard Cohen noted that Qatar "[…] has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability. Press reports indicate that the Qatari government is also supporting extremist groups operating in Syria."  

Qatar’s stature as a nation committed to combating terrorism and money laundering related crimes (like corruption) has been deteriorating steadily in recent years. Last year, the State Department annual report on drug trafficking and money laundering called out Qatar for failing to reimpose the integrity of its financial infrastructure: "the expansion of the financial and trade sectors… make[s] Qatar increasingly vulnerable to the threat of money laundering. Exploitation of charitable services by terrorism financiers continues to be a concern, as does the misuse of exchange houses and other non-bank financial systems." 

Revelations of alleged bribery in FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host have further sullied the reputation. This has occurred mainly because corrupt payments that are routinely concealed within banking systems appear to be endemic to nations that lack a commitment to enforce their very own laws.

There is growing evidence of the corruption-money laundering linkage in Qatar. For example, the May 2015 U.S. indictment charging 9 FIFA officials with bribery, money laundering, and racketeering, identified in Count 221 a transaction involving a bank account in Doha that allegedly facilitated the bribery and money laundering scheme.  Further, the Swiss Attorney General announced that he is accumulating evidence of money laundering involving Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, although details are incomplete because of the ongoing investigation.

Drawing on Qatar’s demonstrated record of enforcing its money laundering, one finds a record that is devoid of proactive and remedial actions. For example, in 2013 there was but one prosecution for money laundering…and no conviction.

If Qatar’s efforts to appear as a respectable financial center contradict reality, consider the statement of former U.S. Treasury Department counter terrorism official Matthew Levitt, who summed up Qatar’s “penchant for passing legislation and considering the matter closed without any implementation or enforcement”.

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