Qatar Didn’t Properly Enforce Its Crypto Ban, Global Money Laundering Watchdog Says

The country's central bank should proactively identify and sanction service providers breaching its 2019 prohibition, according to the Financial Action Task Force.

AccessTimeIconJun 1, 2023 at 2:50 p.m. UTC

Qatar has taken little action against crypto companies breaching a ban announced in 2019, a global anti-money laundering watchdog said in a Wednesday report.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) urged the Qatar Central Bank (QCB) to be more proactive in identifying and sanctioning virtual asset service providers (VASPs) that breached its crypto prohibition in a report, which accused the country of being too lax on terrorist fundraising.

“Qatar has not demonstrated that the competent authorities proactively identify and take enforcement action for potential breaches of this prohibition,” on crypto firms announced by the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority in 2019, said the report, though it cites 2,007 transactions that were rejected and 43 accounts closed for digital asset links.

“No formal sanctions have been applied on a natural or legal person for contravening the prohibition,” even in a case where an unlicensed crypto provider was allegedly found operating in the country, it added.

“There are major inconsistencies between Qatar’s risk profile and the type and extent of terrorist financing activity prosecuted and convicted,” added FATF, a Paris-based global watchdog, which seeks to monitor and mitigate flows of dirty money, including through a controversial “travel rule” requiring the identification of participants in crypto transactions.

Though less crypto-friendly than neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar's central bank governor has pointed to the potential benefits of faster payments, and has said the bank was exploring a digital riyal.

In a statement posted on its website, the central bank said the assessment – which found the country was compliant or largely compliant with each of forty technical requirements – “demonstrate the country’s commitment to combatting illicit financing.”

“The State of Qatar continues to improve and continuously strengthen its combatting system based on international standards,” the statement added. CoinDesk has attempted to reach out to the central bank for further comment.

Edited by Sandali Handagama.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.