Saudi customs officials find 1.6kg of cocaine in smugglers’ stomachs
Updated 27 May 2021
JEDDAH: Customs officers in Saudi Arabia foiled attempts by two airline passengers to smuggle more than 1.6 kilograms of cocaine into the Kingdom.
The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah said inspectors suspicious of a female passenger arriving in the Kingdom carried out an X-ray that revealed 60 capsules in her stomach. They were found to contain 683.5 grams of the drug.
In a similar case, this time involving a male passenger, inspectors found 80 capsules containing 918.5 grams of cocaine.
The authority said swallowing capsules of drugs such as heroin or cocaine is a common method used by smugglers. It added that customs officers at land, sea and airports work tirelessly to foil the attempts and seize shipments in an effort to maintain security and protect Saudi society.
Hand-woven Japanese silk fabric artisans turn attention to Saudi Arabia
Updated 12 August 2022
RIYADH: Kyoto-based Okamoto Orimono Co., Ltd. (branded as Nishijin Okamoto) has worked to provide rare silk fabrics since the Meiji era, and have carried on the techniques and traditions of Nishijin textiles for over 100 years, across four generations.
Nishijin Okamoto is one of the few remaining weaving companies carrying on the historic culture of Nishijin and Kyoto, and the company is offering innovative silk fabrics that will impress the wearer.
Ema Okamoto, textile designer and managing director of Nishijin Okamoto, spoke to Arab News Japan, saying, “I grew up as a child amid the sounds of the machines, the winding threads, and the bustle of the craftsmen in the house and workshop. This atmosphere of the Nishijin workshop is my origin and my life.”
“The people of Saudi Arabia, like us, cherish their roots and as they live their lives. I got a lot of inspi- ration from the regional symbols they showed us wherever we went,” Okamoto said, expressing interest in creating “a traditional collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Japan.”
Outgoing Danish ambassador reflects on his time in Saudi Arabia
Ole Emil Moesby is leaving the Kingdom after five years as his country’s envoy to the region
Updated 12 August 2022
RIYADH: Denmark’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Ole Emil Moesby, will bid the Kingdom farewell at the end of his tour of duty in Riyadh later this month.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you,” he told Arab News. “I’ve had a fantastic time here — you usually get more or less emotional when you have to change, but if you are a diplomat, you’re quite used to it changing from one place to the other.
“I can’t think of any time when I felt this — that I am leaving something behind here — which I will miss because the way I’ve been treated and inspired, and the way I’ve been communicating with people, has been extraordinary,” Moesby said.
“The experience I have had has been fantastic, so my message is: Thank you.”
Moesby has been the ambassador of Denmark to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Yemen since Sept. 5, 2017, and his final day of service is Aug. 31.
Talking to Arab News, Moesby highlighted some of his fondest memories in the Kingdom, where he has spent five years, from interacting with the local community and traveling, to being enriched by the culture and heritage of Saudi Arabia.
“It’s been a fantastic time to experience the development and the changes which I have seen in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“AlUla of course has developed extremely (well) … But even places like Yanbu or Jeddah have actually changed a lot. Not to mention, of course, Riyadh.
“It’s actually been interesting to see also how the development has changed attitudes and culture in these places, but yet, at the other side, have actually maintained the heritage of these places,” Moesby explained.
The ambassador witnessed many changes, including the opening of movie theaters in the Kingdom and the lifting of the ban on women driving in 2018.
“I think it’s been fantastic to see that development,” said the envoy. “I have been (here) in a period where I have been for premiers of films in the cinemas, and before … my staff here, which is mainly women, were actually being brought to the embassy in the morning — now they actually drive themselves,” he added.
“So instead of having a problem of traffic, as we had before, we now have a parking problem,” the ambassador joked.
“That’s a fantastic development, and which I will take with me in my memories when I leave.”
Moebsy explained that he has also been a dedicated Arab News reader, making sure to pick up the newspaper every morning to catch up on events.
“Everything has actually changed since Sept. 5, 2017. So every day, Arab News has actually told me what is happening here. And it’s been a fantastic experience because of the changes that you have seen here,” he said.
The ambassador highlighted the ways his mission has strengthened bilateral relations between Denmark and Saudi Arabia through embassy-led initiatives and collaborations.
“As an ambassador, you have to understand what is happening in Saudi Arabia, and you have to convey that to people in Denmark, and you have to make people in Saudi Arabia understand what the thinking is in Denmark. That’s the way to develop a bilateral relationship,” he said.
Most of his efforts have been to put into trade, developing business partnerships, and promoting cultural exchanges.
One of these efforts was hosting a women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia with 28 teams from all over the Kingdom, called the Global Goals World Cup.
“We’ve been very active in setting up football for females. The tournament that we had was a big success … because it also demonstrated the role that females can play in sports events,” he said.
In February, the embassy hosted celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and the ambassador invited young female Saudi artists to paint a picture of the queen to mark the event.
“It’s an amazing development of cultural abilities and possibilities in Saudi Arabia that can happen. And for the queen in Denmark, she would see that as a good signal of the long-term good relations that we have between Saudi Arabia and Denmark,” Moesby said.
He concluded his interview by leaving a message to his successor, Liselotte Kjaersgaard Plesner, who will be the next ambassador.
“My successor, she is one of our top diplomats in the Danish service,” Moesby said.
“I just hope she can just be half as happy as I am in being here, (then) I will be more than happy.
“An important message to say to her is that the perceptions that we sometimes all are under in Europe or Denmark, and in the US, you can’t get close to the reality unless you have seen it yourself,” he said.
The ambassador added that people should not form their opinions of a country without examining it and being a part of the culture first.
“You have to come here. You have to live here. You have to understand and communicate with people here, otherwise, it won’t happen,” he said.
All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
From October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator who earns revenue on social media must first apply for an official permit
For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, allowing them to work with private entities
Updated 11 August 2022
TAREK ALI AHMAD
LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.
From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).
For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”
The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.
“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.
Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.
Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.
After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.
“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.
“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”
Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”
Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.
In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.
GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”
“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.
Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.
However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.
There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.
With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.
However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.
Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.
In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.
The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.
The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.
With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.
“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”
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Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital
Updated 11 August 2022
Hassan Al-Jeshi was appointed CEO of Malaz Capital in July this year.
Malaz Capital is an asset management firm operating under the regulations of the Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia.
The company obtained its CMA license in 2010, and is authorized to carry out asset management, dealing as principal and custody services in the Kingdom.
Prior to joining Malaz Capital, Al-Jeshi held several leadership positions in leading investment institutions and a group of national and international banks, including head of equity capital markets at Saudi National Bank Capital in 2021, the investment arm of SNB.
He worked at Samba Financial Group, holding two different positions including assistant general manager from 2017, and head of investment banking from 2020 at Samba Capital, the group’s investment arm.
From 2013-17, Al-Jeshi worked as group head of corporate finance at Alistithmar Capital, the investment arm of The Saudi Investment Bank.
In 2012, he worked in energy and infrastructure investment banking at Taylor-DeJongh, Washington, DC.
Al-Jeshi has extensive professional experience in the field of investment and capital markets locally, regionally, and internationally, where he has led through his positions multiple landmark and significant investment transactions.
At Samba he managed and oversaw the full cycle of investment banking deal-related activities, including deal origination, client management, building financial models, performing valuation, transaction structuring, and preparing to offer documents, reviewing transaction agreements and more.
During his early career, Al-Jeshi also worked as a business consultant to a number of small and medium enterprises at start-up and growth stages in areas related to preliminary feasibility study assessment, capital budgeting, valuation, and fundraising.
Al-Jeshi holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals which he received in 2005, and in 2013 he earned a master’s degree in finance from George Washington University in the US.