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Monday, June 14, 2021

Qatar freezes assets of six businessmen amid corruption sweep: reports

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Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has also updated laws to abolish previous immunity provisions for ministers.

Qatar has reportedly frozen the assets of six local businessmen as part of what appears to be a crackdown on corruption in the Gulf state, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Two sources speaking on the condition of anonymity told the media outlet that the businessmen were listed in a central bank circular distributed to financial institutions late last week, when finance minister Ali Shareef Al-Emadi was arrested over corruption charges. Al-Emadi’s assets were also frozen, the sources said.

According to Bloomberg, Qatari government officials declined to comment on the matter.

In recent days, Qatar has engaged in major moves to improve transparency in its domestic affairs, most notably with the arrest of the finance minister. Al-Emadi was relieved by the amir from his duties on Thursday and replaced with current Minister of Trade and Industry Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, the current Minister of Trade and Industry.

Read also: Qatar’s amir abolishes immunity for ministers amid fight against corruption

In another bold move, just a day prior to Al-Emadi’s arrest for alleged embezzlement and abuse of power, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani updated laws to abolish previous immunity provisions for ministers.

The update scraps the Accountability of Ministers law which lifts protection provided to government officials in the face of civil or criminal prosecution, as is the case with all residents and citizens, according to The Gazette.

The new laws do not abolish the rights of minister but rather declares that criminal laws apply to all citizens of the Qatari community equally.

In an interview with Doha News, prominent Qatari journalist and Editor in Chief of The Peninsula Dr. Khalid Al-Shafi said the move, previously mentioned in his speech during the last Shura Council session, clearly imply that Qatar’s laws apply on all state agencies to enforce transparency and accountability.

“These directives coincide with broad legal reforms that have made the State of Qatar at the forefront of countries that fight corruption and support good governance as well as the rule of law,” Al-Shafi said.

“This confirms that our leadership places integrity and honesty as a top priority. These laws will be applied to everyone with complete equality to prevent financial and administrative violations as well as all that affects integrity, transparency and the rule of law,” Al-Shafi stated.

According to Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the investigation with the minister is still ongoing.

“What happened with regard to the former Minister of Finance Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, has a direct relationship with the public office, and the job of the minister of finance,” Al Thani told Al Jazeera, suggesting the charges were not related to his position or role in any other institution.

The finance minister was previously lauded for his quick reaction in the wake of the blockade.

Al-Emadi assumed his position as the finance minister a day after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became the leader of Qatar in June 2013.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Qatar among the least corrupt in the region in 2020, with a score of 63 out of 100.


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