Bahrain’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority has announced it is launching a crackdown on money laundering in the Kingdom’s real estate sector. The crackdown will be launched together with other Government bodies. The aim is to eradicate money laundering in this sector in the Kingdom. The announcement follows the publication of Bahrain Decision No. 3/2019 to mitigate money laundering risks in the real estate sector. Under the Decision, all real estate licensees have to appoint a Compliance Officer who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with Bahrain Law No. 27/2017.
The UAE’s Central Bank has launched a consultation on a draft regulation on loan-based Crowdfunding Platforms or CFPs. The consultation ends on 10 October 2019. The aim is to establish a framework for licensing, regulating and monitoring loan-based CFPs and to set out the standards the Central Bank expects them to meet. The framework and standards are aimed at protecting the country’s financial system from the risks posed by CFPs and protect consumer interests in the country. It is also aimed at developing the FinTech sector in the UAE. If approved, it will apply to person(s) wherever they are domiciled who in engage in loan-based CFP operations in the UAE except in the Financial Free Zones. CFPs will be categorised according to their lending volume; a. Category 1 (Large), Cumulative loans facilitated in a calendar year at 5,000,000 AED or more or b. Category 2 (Small), Cumulative loans facilitated in a calendar year are below 5,000,000 AED. An applicant wishing to undertake loan-based CFP activities must apply to the Central Bank for a license and if their application is approved, they must undertake to provide a bank guarantee drawn in favour of the Central Bank and issued by a locally incorporated UAE bank of value equal to the required paid-up capital, among other things.
Bahrain’s Parliamentary Public Utilities and Environment Committee has discussed a draft maritime law accompanying Bahrain Decree No. 29/2018. The Committee also discussed its recommendations regarding the articles of a draft law amending Bahrain Decree Law No. 20/2002 on the regulation of fishing, exploitation and protection of marine wealth. The Chairman of the Committee pointed out the fishing and marine wealth law will also be amended in order to protect marine wealth and workers in the fishing sector.
Abu Dhabi’s Global Market Registration Authority has announced it has introduced a new instant license renewal service. The service will allow registered entities to complete license renewals via the Online Registry Solution, once a renewal form is submitted. Companies will also be able to continue to use the platform to lodge their other annual filing requirements in line with the Companies Regulations 2015. The aim is to improve business efficiency and make it easier to do business in the Centre.
The Qatar Financial Centre has announced it has issued new rules and guidance to regulate FinTech service providers in the country. Under the new rules and guidance, non-regulated professional service firm activities have been expanded to cover FinTech Services Provider activities. This will include activities like providing cybersecurity solutions, application programming interfaces cloud computing, developing blockchain-based technologies, Artificial Intelligence and companies who provide a platform for facilitating real-time transaction capability of internet connected devices. It comes as Qatar looks to develop its FinTech environment and is part of the Centre’s FinTech strategy.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has announced it will issue the first ever tourist visas in the Kingdom. The visas will cost 300 Riyals with an additional travel insurance cost of 140 Riyals. They will be issued from today to nationals of 49 countries from Europe, Asia and the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
While the dress code requirement for foreign women will be relaxed to remove the requirement for them to wear the abaya robe they will still have to wear ‘modest clothing’. Non-Muslims will also still not to be allowed to visit the Mecca and Madinah and the ban on alcohol will not be lifted.
Historically visas were only issued to pilgrims, business people and expatriate employees. They will be valid for 360 days from their issued date for stays of up to 90 days up to a maximum of 180 days annually.
In common with other GCC states, Bahrainisation efforts have been under scrutiny as a parliamentary committee which has been put in charge of investigating non-Bahrainisation of jobs in the public and private sector held a meeting. The issue was raised after it was found the Ministry of Information had 70% of Bahraini staff with temporary contracts. There was a pledge to take action after there had been issues as a result of a number of national employees opting for the Voluntary Retirement Programme. The committee asked that the Ministry include Bahrainisation rates as a contract term when signing agreements with private companies and take this matter into consideration when awarding tenders.
The Emir of Qatar has issued Qatar Law No. 20/2019 on Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing, replacing Qatar Law No. 4/2010. The law is to be implemented from the day following its publication in the Official Gazette. The Qatari Central Bank has said the new law complies with recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by setting binding legal requirements for businesses and the financial sector on combatting money laundering and terrorist financing, including non-profit organisations and money transfer services. Those who violate the law will face fines and imprisonment. The law requires the “widest possible cooperation and exchange of financial information” with foreign counterparts. Qatar has already signed a relevant memorandum of understanding with the United States.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has brought to the attention of relevant officials to tighten control over markets and ban imports of Somali coal. The moves is as a result of fearsmoney earned from coal export in Somali may be indirectly used in financing terrorist activities. The ministry had received a letter from the United Nations on this subject. The steps have been taken as part of the United Nation’s work to remove financial resources which support crime.
The UAE has announced it has joined the US-led International Maritime Security Construct following recent tanker attacks in the region. The Construct is aimed at protecting maritime navigation and international trade. The Director of the International Security Cooperation Department at the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ministry made the announcement. The Construct’s task force is headquartered in Bahrain and its members include the US, UK, Australia and Bahrain.
Kuwait’s Trade and Industry Minister has issued a Decision as well, raising the security level at all of the country’s oil and commercial ports. ‘All’ measures must be taken to protect these facilities.