Arab forum targets illicit financial networks   

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The Arab Forum of Anti-Corruption Agencies and Financial Intelligence Units began on Wednesday in Riyadh. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Arab Forum of Anti-Corruption Agencies and Financial Intelligence Units began on Wednesday in Riyadh. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 15 May 2024
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Arab forum targets illicit financial networks   

  • The discussion is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s endeavors to uphold the rule of law and promote fair competition between companies

RIYADH: The Arab Forum of Anti-Corruption Agencies and Financial Intelligence Units began on Wednesday in Riyadh, hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of State Security, and discussed targeting illicit financial networks.   

Focusing on institutional frameworks and joint coordination between multiple parties, the discussion included global speakers: Jawhar Nfissi, president, National Financial Intelligence Authority in Morocco; Daniel Glaser, global head of jurisdictional services at K2 Integrity and head of its Washington, D.C. office; Elzbieta Frankow-Jaskiewicz, interim chair, Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units; Suliman Aljabrin, executive secretary, Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, Bahrain; Khadija Ali, head of the Financial Investigation Unit, Republic of Comoros; Mohamed Allal Al-Kahil, head of the Financial Prohibition Unit, Islamic Republic of Mauritania.  

The discussion, addressing anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism, is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s endeavors to uphold the rule of law, promote fair competition between companies, and achieve security and prosperity for all.   

The session provided discussions on reform paths for various local entities taking action to harmonize their legal frameworks with the requirements set by the Kingdom’s Anti-Money Laundering Permanent Committee to advance its broader national reform agenda.  

Elzbieta Frankow-Jaskiewicz, interim chair, Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, talked about the firm’s efforts in fighting illicit financial networks.

“Many agencies use our technologies from private sectors and we work with our counterparts in Interpol, WCO, World Bank and G20,” Frankow-Jaskiewicz said during the panel discussion.   

Egmont Group is important to the global CFT (Combating the Financing of Terrorism) regime in many aspects, such as in international information-sharing and in their secured channels for exchanging information.   

“Using typologies that we developed over the course of these three years, we raise the operational effectiveness values; we enhance our FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) capabilities in Egmont center and memberships,” she said. 

Since its founding, Egmont has assisted more than 190 jurisdictions by constructing a new learning platform and providing technical support for FIU. With nearly 7,000 registered users and 2011 courses already developed and launched, Khadija Ali, head, Financial Investigation Unit, Republic of Comoros, talked about the regulation measures the country has in place when receiving a report.

“We have to ask for information in order to obtain the suspicious transaction file as soon as the financial institutions submit it to us. Additionally, if required, it is a report to the prosecution. In order to effectively combat this, we also work and interact with individuals who are affected by it, including banks, attorneys, notaries, jewelers, anti-corruption advocates and other subject persons,” she said. 

“Not only must the government enact a new anti-corruption law, but it must also hire modern experts, the law against money laundering. This reveals the Comorian government’s dedication to fighting financial crime, and I would like to use this chance to praise this successful dedication. We have a system in place to fight money laundering and the funding of terrorism, which is implemented at the national level by a number of players, in line with the Comoros strategy,” she said.    

Suliman Aljabrin, executive secretary of the MENA financial action taskforce in Bahrain, said during the session that the banking industry was developing well.

“The banking industry in the Arab world is quite developed, though not in terms of the private sector or the organization that oversees, monitors and supervises it. This indicates that there is a compromise to be struck between the need to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorists and maintaining financial confidentiality, which is the standard. It will serve as the first entry-point for the official system to be introduced and the money to be laundered,” he said. 

The challenge, according to K2 Integrity’s Daniel Glaser, has been how to take rules and regulations and make them effective for everyone, from the smallest countries to the US.   

“Not that they don’t have the framework, but how do you get the framework to be implemented? And that requires so many different things. It requires political will. It requires investment of resources, sometimes more than countries are willing to invest,” he said.

The head of Morocco’s national financial intelligence body, Jawhar Nfissi, said that creating a national institutional structure and making a firm political commitment were essential. Also, monitoring the reports was vital, as according to statistics, there has been a 200 percent increase in suspicion indicators in Morocco during the past five years.  

In light of international treaties, Mohamed Allal Al-Kahil, head of the Financial Prohibition Unit, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, emphasized the need for legislation to combat bribery and corruption, noting that current legislation falls short of the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations. 


King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 family members of Palestinian victims for Hajj

Updated 9 sec ago
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King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 family members of Palestinian victims for Hajj

  • The gesture is part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah
  • Since its inception 26 years ago, more than 60,000 pilgrims have been hosted under the program

RIYADH: King Salman ordered the hosting of 2,322 Hajj pilgrims on Tuesday, including 1,000 family members of Palestinians killed or wounded by Israel or held in Israeli prisons.

1,300 people from over 88 countries and 22 family members of conjoined twins who were separated in the Kingdom will also be hosted for the pilgrimage, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The gesture is part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah, which is supervised by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance.

Since its inception 26 years ago, more than 60,000 pilgrims have been hosted under the program.

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikhb said the order reflects the Saudi leadership’s constant care for Muslims around the world and its efforts to strengthen unity and brotherhood among Muslims by bringing them together for Hajj at the expense of the king.

The minister said preparations to host these pilgrims have begun and a strategic plan has been developed.


Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 

Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia condemned on Tuesday the Israeli forces’ continued “genocidal massacres against the Palestinian people without deterrence” by targeting the tents of defenseless Palestinian refugees in Rafah.

The Kingdom holds the Israeli authorities fully responsible for what is happening in Rafah and all the occupied Palestinian territories, a foreign ministry statement read.

Israel’s military denied striking a tent camp west of the city of Rafah on Tuesday after Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank shelling had killed at least 21 people there, in what Israel has designated a civilian evacuation zone.

Earlier, defying an appeal from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israeli tanks advanced to the heart of Rafah for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment, while Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, a move that further deepened Israel’s international isolation.

Saudi Arabia reiterated that the Israeli forces’ blatant violation of all international and humanitarian laws and norms, amid the silence of the international community, exacerbates the unprecedented Palestinian humanitarian catastrophe, and puts the credibility of international legitimacy institution at stake.

“The Kingdom stresses the need for the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the massacres against the Palestinian people and hold those responsible accountable,” the statement concluded.

- With Reuters. 


Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding

Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding

  • Deal aims to advance media sector in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft Arabia in Riyadh on Tuesday covering several areas of cooperation, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by the Assistant Minister of Media Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, and Ziad Mansour, Microsoft’s executive vice president of data and artificial intelligence.

Bassem Al-Hazmi, the general manager of digital transformation and information technology and the general manager of cybersecurity, was also present, along with the President of Microsoft Arabia Turki Badhris.

Cooperation will include developing technical aspects in the areas of data analysis, self-learning, AI, security and privacy solutions, and various software and service development solutions.

It will aim to raise the quality of local media content and keep pace with global transformations to serve the future goals of the Ministry of Media.

The memorandum also bids to advance the media sector in the Kingdom, enabling it to contribute to the local economy while benefiting from the developments of AI and its multiple applications in the field of media.


Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show

Updated 28 May 2024
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Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show

Mansour Al-Babtain is the vice president of commercial partnerships and liaison at the World Defense Show.

A former fighter pilot, Al-Babtain has extensive experience working with high-level government figures and private-sector leaders.

He joined the WDS in April 2021. His current role is to oversee the sales, sponsorship and customer experience divisions, in addition to maintaining his liaison responsibilities with Saudi government entities including the General Authority for Military Industries and international delegations.

The department links WDS business owners with the appropriate government entities, ensures the security of the location and people prior to, during and following the show, and manages WDS committees.

From the initial show license to security support, Al-Babtain effectively manages the challenges of ensuring the smooth entry and exit of military supplies, technology, and personnel.

Having graduated from King Faisal Air Academy, he served 12 years in the Royal Saudi Air Force as a fighter pilot, squadron leader and tactical intelligence officer before moving to the Ministry of Defense and later to several government entities.

In addition to his degree in aerial sciences, Al-Babtain holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from Air University in Alabama and a diploma in diplomatic and political relations from the International Arbitration Commission in Cairo.
 


AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting

Updated 28 May 2024
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AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting

RIYADH: Intellectual property and artificial intelligence will be discussed at a regional meeting of the Arab League’s Intellectual Property and Competitiveness Department on Wednesday.

The virtual gathering, which will be hosted via video link, will include experts from the World Intellectual Property Organization and governmental intellectual property offices from several Arab nations, reported Saudi Press Agency.

Key topics on the agenda are optimizing intellectual property frameworks for AI development, the impact of AI on patenting processes, legislative efforts to address legal challenges, and implications of AI for copyright regulations.

Minister Plenipotentiary Dr. Maha Bakheet, director of legal affairs at the Intellectual Property and Competitiveness Department, said the meeting aimed to safeguard AI models through intellectual property mechanisms and enhance services.

It also hopes to drive service delivery and management progress within regional intellectual property offices.