US companies operating in Qatar participated in a recently-held seminar, which tackled important topics under the theme ‘Changes in the Qatar and US Compliance Landscape – What Businesses Should Know’.
Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar (AmCham Qatar), the event featured Michael Gunnison, senior counsel at Crowell & Moring Doha, who discussed Qatar’s new anti-money laundering legislation and recent US-Qatar enforcement developments, said AmCham Qatar executive director Lisa Saad.
During the seminar, Gunnison examined ‘Law No 20 of 2019 on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing’, and ‘Law No 27 of 2019 on Combating Terrorism’.
Gunnison said Law No 20 of 2019 criminalises money laundering and terrorist financing, defines financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs), and establishes the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee. He said the law also empowers specified supervisory authorities to issue AML regulations and oversee regulated sectors.
“Both of these laws have general application in Qatar regardless of whether your company is registered in the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), and both of these laws have implementing regulations that add specificity to companies’ legal obligations under both Law No 20 and No 27,” he explained.
“A point worth noting is that the law takes a very broad approach to defining money laundering. The Qatar law criminalises any transaction knowingly undertaken with money traceable to a crime,” said Gunnison.
He said, “Qatari law is very inclusive and refers to any crime. This could be narcotics, human trafficking, any kind of fraud, bribery, export control violations, and even money from sales of counterfeit goods, just to name a few.
“This is important to know when companies develop their own risk-based compliance policies. Just like in the United States, Qatar obligates companies to implement a range of practices in support of their anti-money laundering effort.”
Gunnison emphasised that Qatar's new laws and regulations create a good environment to protect the financial and reputational interests of companies, adding that following the QFC guidance “is the best way to ensure compliance with all the applicable regulations.”
“Always choose the highest standards of conduct in regard to both Qatar and the United States’ laws, be familiar with your operational and reputational risks, and make sure your training and awareness reflect the current risk environment,” he added.
Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, Gunnison said Qatar is “a mature and growing commercial centre” that has shown its commitment to creating a business environment that does not tolerate money laundering or commercial crime.
He added: “And they have been making a concerted effort to enact appropriate legislation and regulations that conform with the world's best practices, as reflected in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.”
“This is good news for the commercial sector because it shows that by basing your business here you will not expose your company to financial or reputational risks. That might be the case in a jurisdiction with regulations that are more lax, so this shows that more regulation does not necessarily impede business: It promotes good practices. It is part of what attracts companies to base here.”