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Qatar: Minister of Justice Issues Regulation on Lawyers’ Legal Obligations Regarding Anti-money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Requirements

(Dec. 3, 2020) On July 9, 2020, Qatar’s minister of justice issued a regulation laying out lawyers’ legal obligations when developing an anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing program and policies for the lawyers’ organization. Minister of Justice Regulation No. 24 of 2020 was published in Qatar’s Official Gazette following the ratification of the draft by Qatar’s cabinet on May 6, 2020.

Anti-money Laundering and Counterterrorist Financing Program

The regulation stipulates that lawyers should develop and implement a risk-based approach when creating an anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing program for the lawyers’ organization. The program must be based on identifying and assessing money laundering and terrorist financing risks in line with the nature and size of the organization’s business. (Regulation No. 24 of 2020, art. 4.)

The regulation requires that the program include the following:

  • Appropriate internal procedures, systems, and controls for combating money laundering and terrorist financing
  • Proper arrangements for managing anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing compliance, including the appointment of a compliance officer
  • Applying the necessary investigation and audit procedures to ensure adherence to the highest standards of efficiency when hiring the organization’s employees
  • Preparing and implementing an appropriate and continuous training program for officials and employees of the organization
  • Creating an independent audit unit to conduct continuous evaluation, review, and testing to ensure compliance with the anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing policies (Art. 8.)

Compliance Policies Developed by the Organization’s Lawyers

The anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing compliance policies must employ strict due diligence measures when the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing are high. The policies should involve appropriate methods to manage risks and reduce them when establishing a business relationship with “politically exposed persons” (art. 10), which the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations define as persons who are or have been entrusted with a prominent public function and whose positions and influence “can potentially be abused for the purpose of committing money laundering.”

Lawyers must conduct periodic evaluations at least once a year to ensure the compatibility of the compliance policies with the degree of money laundering and terrorist financing risks. The evaluations must guarantee that the compliance polices meet the evolving requirements of combating money laundering and terrorist financing. (Art. 11.)

Compliance Officer 

The organization’s compliance officer works closely with the organization’s lawyers on creating, applying, and evaluating anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing compliance policies and procedures. (Art. 19.) The compliance officer serves as the main contact point between the organization’s lawyers and the National Financial Intelligence Unit. (Art. 20.)

The compliance officer must prepare an annual report on anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing issues that includes the following:

  • An evaluation of the appropriateness and effectiveness of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism policies
  • Suggestions for improving policies and programs applied by lawyers in combating money laundering and terrorist financing
  • A summary of training programs on combating money laundering and terrorist financing and suggestions for developing such programs
  • Progress made in implementing any action plans for combating money laundering and terrorist financing (Art. 23.)

Risk-Based Approach

Lawyers must identify and evaluate the risks of their organization’s clients, products, and services being associated with money laundering and terrorist financing. (Art. 24.) If the evaluation shows that the risks are high, the lawyers must determine the steps necessary to create a methodology to manage and reduce such risks. The risk assessment methodology determines the nature of the business relationships with each client and takes into account the purpose of the relationships. It should be designed in such a way that the organization’s lawyers can identify any changes occurring in the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as enable the lawyers to modify the methodology whenever necessary. (Art. 26.)

Client-Based Risk

If the organization’s lawyers know or suspect that the client is in some way involved in terrorist crimes or crimes of money laundering and terrorist financing, or is subject to penalties or measures issued by regional or international organizations, the lawyers are required to refrain from starting or continuing a business relationship with the client. (Art. 30.)  

The lawyers must also take into account that the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing related to business activities with the organization’s client may arise (1) if the funds to be invested in the business relationship are the proceeds of a criminal offense and the relationship is used as a channel for these funds, and (2) if the proceeds of the client’s original criminal activity will incorporate the proceeds of a legitimate business activity with the organization to disguise their original source. (Art. 45.)

Enhanced Due Diligence

Lawyers must apply strict due diligence measures and continuous oversight commensurate with the degree of risks if

  • the business relationships and operations take place with clients or third parties from countries that the FATF has called for measures against, or
  • it appears from the business relationship evaluation process that the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing are high. (Art. 67.)

Training Programs

The organization’s lawyers should set up a permanent anti-money laundering and counterterrorism-financing training program to ensure that the organization’s employees know

  • the policies followed to manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, the role of the compliance officer, and the importance of due diligence measures;
  • the risk patterns and indicators of money laundering and terrorist financing, and the existing weaknesses in the products and services provided by the organizations; and
  • the procedure for seeking information and evaluating it to detect suspicious transactions. (Art. 84.)