A Qatari regime-owned bank, Al Rayan, operating in the United Kingdom with ties to the US- and EU-classified terrorist entity Hamas, has been placed under investigation for financial crimes, including money laundering.
The British newspaper The Times, which first reported on the probe into Al Rayan on Thursday, wrote Al Rayan notified its shareholders this year that its “anti-money laundering [AML] processes and controls have been placed under formal review by the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA], which has led to ongoing investment in enhanced AML processes.”
The Jerusalem Post reported in early August that Al Rayan’s account with the Hamas-connected NGO Interpal revealed pro-BDS notices targeting Israel on its website. The Times wrote in its early August report that Interpal is “A Palestinian aid charity identified in a 2015 government review as part of the British infrastructure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It was designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury over alleged Hamas funding links, a charge it strongly denies.”
The Times’ second report on Thursday said “Restrictions have been placed on the operation of Al Rayan, the UK’s oldest and largest Islamic bank, pending the outcome of the [FCA] investigation.”
According to The Times, “The bank’s largest shareholders are Qatari state institutions. The wealthy emirate has been criticized for the support it provides to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and for its alleged funding of Islamist terrorism in North Africa and the Middle East.” The regulators at the FCA oversee “the conduct of 59,000 British firms including banks,” wrote The Times. The FCA seeks to “apply risk-based customer due diligence” and other steps to prevent their services “from being used for money laundering or terrorist financing, “noted the paper, adding banks are required to adhere to “policies and procedures to minimize their money laundering risk.”
Al Rayan’s is based in Birmingham and has a customer base of 85,000 customers. The Times wrote: “The FCA inquiry into Al Rayan is thought to have been launched last year. Pending its outcome, the bank was required ‘with immediate effect’ not to open new deposit accounts for anyone ‘categorized as high risk for the purposes of financial crime risk.’ It must also reject any account applications from ‘politically exposed persons’ [PEPs], members of their family or their ‘known close associates.’ The FCA defines PEPs as ‘individuals whose prominent position in public life may make them vulnerable to corruption.”’
According to The Times, an Al Rayan spokesperson said the bank agreed to impose a “temporary restriction” on new deposit accounts for certain persons. A spokesperson for the bank told the Post:”Al Rayan Bank does not, never has, and never will support any organisation, individual or event that promotes extreme or violent views or ideologies.”
Allegations of Qatar financing terrorism have long followed the largely opaque financial practices of the super wealthy monarchy.
In 2015, Germany’s development minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar of financing the terrorist movement ISIS.
“You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops?” Mueller said at the time. “The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?”
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.