Qatar finance minister arrested over alleged embezzlement -statement


FILE PHOTO: Qatar's Minister of Finance Ali Sherif Al Emadi speaks at the Qatar UK Business and Investment Forum in London, Britain March 27, 2017 REUTERS/Neil Hall

DUBAI (Reuters) -Qatar Finance Minister Ali Sherif 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.

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.

"The findings and investigation are related to his government position as finance minister and not to his board member roles at other entities," a source with knowledge of the investigation said, declining to give further details.

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.

However, the contraction was less than expected and was the smallest in the Gulf region, International Monetary Fund data showed.

Emadi was named as 2020’s best minister in the region by The Banker, an international financial magazine that organises an annual celebration of finance ministers.

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.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones)

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