Qatar finance minister arrested over embezzlement accusations

Ali Shareef al-Emadi has been minister of finance since 2013 and sits on the board of its powerful $300 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.
Thursday 06/05/2021
Minister of Finance of Qatar Ali Shareef al-Emadi attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia June 6, 2019. (REUTERS)
Minister of Finance of Qatar Ali Shareef al-Emadi attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia June 6, 2019. (REUTERS)

DOHA--Qatar Finance Minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi was arrested for questioning over allegations of embezzlement, abuse of power and crimes related to the public sector, a statement carried by state news agency QNA said on Thursday.

An investigation is underway, the statement added.

There have been so far no details about the magnitude of the minister’s criminal practices and possible connections.

Emadi has been minister of finance in the wealthy Gulf Arab state since 2013 and sits on the board of its powerful $300 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

He is also chairman of the board of directors of Qatar National Bank, the largest lender in the Middle East and Africa.

Emadi steered Qatar’s economic policies during the 2014-2015 oil price crash that prompted the tiny nation – as well as other Gulf countries – to accelerate plans to diversify the economy.

Qatar, a leading producer of liquefied natural gas, saw its economy shrink by 3.7% last year due to the coronavirus crisis and lower global energy demand.

The contraction however was smaller than expected and the smallest in the Gulf region, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Qatar, which next year will host the soccer World Cup, has invested heavily in infrastructure over the past few years ahead of the event, which means spending on major projects is set to decrease this year, the finance ministry has said.

Real gross domestic product is expected to grow 2.2% this year thanks to the rollout of vaccines, a gradual easing of coronavirus-related restrictions and an increase in oil demand and prices.