Qatar regulator launches platform to monitor human understanding of financial crime

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Financial services professionals in Qatar can now measure their understanding of how to prevent financial crimes through an online platform, as the country steps up efforts to curb money laundering that is financing terrorism.

The Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) has launched a digital platform that enables professionals to assess their knowledge of anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT).

Qatar’s capital markets regulator has created the platform with international not-for-profit  professional body the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).

The digital assessment, which is available on mobile devices and laptops, reports results to the regulator, enabling it to monitor compliance.

The aim of the platform, available in English and Arabic, is to increase the effectiveness of all professionals in the sector in fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. According to the UN, about $2tn is moved illegally each year. Criminals and terrorist organisations use big banks to hide their dirty money, with funds being used to pay for assets to hide the money’s origin.

Education and the understanding of these crimes is essential alongside technologies to detect suspicious activity. Money laundering was recently headline news when leaked documents revealed that banks including HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered have moved huge amounts of money despite spotting suspicious transactions.

Simon Culhane, CEO at CISI, said the project is essential to ensure “sound training and competence standards for those working in the financial services domain in the Qatari capital market”.

Culhane added that the online platform will ensure access for people working remotely because of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. “Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, many staff are working from home,” he said. “Employers globally have experienced how effective online systems can be for productivity, with particular benefits for the e-learning process.”

Under the threat of huge financial penalties, banks have turned to technology to detect money laundering activity. Today, machine learning and natural language processing are being used to replace manual work. Machines can read many more articles than humans and can automate anti-money laundering processes.

By monitoring the level of understanding of financial crimes, banks and other financial services organisations can ensure that investments in technology to detect potential criminal activity are not wasted through human misunderstanding.

Banks face heavy fines if money laundering is detected on their networks. For example, in the Netherlands, ING was fined €775m in 2018 after the regulator said the bank had failed to prevent the laundering of hundreds of millions of euros between 2010 and 2016.

And in 2017, Citigroup agreed to pay almost $100m and admitted to criminal violations as it settled an investigation into breaches of anti-money laundering rules involving money transfers between the US and Mexico. In the same year, Deutsche Bank was fined $650m by British and US authorities for allowing wealthy clients to move $10bn out of Russia.

QFMA CEO Nasser Ahmad Al Shaibi said the digital platform will disseminate knowledge about combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“QFMA attaches great importance to the educational and awareness aspect of professionals in the capital market, and for concerned and interested ones in Qatar, especially regarding AML/CFT, considering its key role in ensuring the ongoing development of the financial sector and investor protection,” he said.

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