Qatar orders arrest of finance minister over misuse of funds

Qatar’s prosecutor ordered the arrest of Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al-Emadi to question him over alleged abuse of power and misuse of public funds, a state-run news agency said.

The country’s ruling emir said he’d relieved Al-Emadi of his office and entrusted his duties to the current Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ali Al Kuwari, according to an announcement released hours after arrest was made public.

Al-Emadi was named finance minister a day after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took over leadership of the country in June 2013, and has held the role since. The prosecutor has launched an investigation, Qatar News Agency said Thursday, no further details were immediately available.Ali Sharif Al Emadi wearing a suit and tie: Opening Day of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2019

The arrest was unusual, because allegations of criminal conduct by senior state officials or members of ruling families in the Gulf are typically addressed behind closed doors. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s declared anti-corruption drive in 2017, which targeted royals and businesspeople, was an exception.

Qatar’s dollar bonds held on to most of their earlier gains following the news, with the yield on the securities due 2050 down about 4 basis points to 3.4%. The country’s stock market had already closed for the weekend.

Al-Emadi had been a stalwart of Qatar’s financial system, helping to transform Qatar National Bank from a local champion into the region’s biggest lender as its chief executive from 2007 to 2013. He still serves as chairman of the bank’s board, and is also president of the executive board of Qatar Airways, and on the board of Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Financial Times reported that allegations against him concern bribery and commissions related to government contracts, citing a person in Doha who the newspaper said was briefed on the investigation but didn’t name. The investigation is centered on his conduct as minister, and not his other positions, it said.

More recently, amid speculation that Al-Emadi had fallen out of favor, he was replaced as chairman of the Qatar Financial Centre, a platform through which most foreign financial firms working in the country are registered and among agencies that encourage foreign investment.

Al Emadi has been regarded as a budget-conscious finance chief, reluctant to raise excess debt even though Qatar’s bond yields are among the lowest in developing economies.

At the same time, he’s overseen heavy spending in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that Qatar is to host. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates the country will plow $300 billion into infrastructure projects ahead of the soccer tournament.

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