Ali Sharif al Emadi, at a regional meeting in Beirut in 2019 DPA via Europa Press / Europa Press
The Qatari attorney general has ordered the arrest of the finance minister of that emirate, Ali Sharif al Emadi, on suspicion of embezzlement and prevarication, as reported on Thursday by the Qatari state news agency, QNA.
The brief announcement shows that there is an ongoing investigation into "crimes committed in the exercise of public office."
Al Emadi arrived at the Qatari Ministry of Finance in June 2013, the day after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani took over from his father as emir.
As such, it had to cope with the collapse in crude prices of 2014-2015, which forced Qatar and the other
the Gulf to accelerate their economic diversification plans.
Two years later, it ran into an embargo on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over political differences, forcing the small but rich Arab state to diversify its trade relations.
His quick reaction to this crisis was widely celebrated and earned him
the title of "best finance minister in the region" by
Al Emadi also chaired the board of directors of the National Bank of Qatar, which as CEO (between 2007 and 2013) had become the largest lender in the Middle East and Africa. In addition, he was chairman of the executive board of the airline Qatar Airways and a member of the board of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a powerful investment instrument with an estimated net worth of 300,000 million dollars (about 250,000 million euros) .
The mere investigation of a high-ranking official of that level is unusual in Gulf monarchies.
Saudi Arabia carried out a notorious anti-corruption campaign in 2017, but the image it projected was of an internal purge.
Although the region does not rank very well in the indices of Transparency International, a non-governmental organization that promotes measures against corporate crime and political corruption, Qatar was among the least corrupt countries in the area in 2020.
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The emirate, of just 11,500 square kilometers (the size of the province of Murcia) and of whose 2.8 million inhabitants only 325,000 are Qatari, is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Its rulers have used the enormous wealth of hydrocarbons not only to equip themselves with modern infrastructure, but to become a global investor, support an ambitious foreign policy and make themselves known. Next year, Qatar hosts the Soccer World Cup, an endeavor that has transformed the physical and human landscape of the country.
Its economy was affected in 2020 by the covid-19 pandemic and the consequent decline in global energy demand. However, its contraction (3.7%) was lighter than feared and the lowest among its neighbors, according to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For this year, it expects a growth of 2.2%.