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QU hosts a roundtable forum where international expert calls for pragmatic approach to the regulation of digital currencies in Qatar | Qatar University

QU hosts a roundtable forum where international expert calls for pragmatic approach to the regulation of digital currencies in Qatar

International Expert Calls for Pragmatic Approach to the Regulation of Digital Currencies in Qatar

Digital currencies and their risks were in the spotlight at a Qatar University (QU) Roundtable forum recently hosted by the Centre for Law and Development. The event was attended by both local and international experts and examined the benefits and potential risks associated with the use of digital currencies. Representatives from the Qatar Central Bank (QCB), Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA), Qatar University and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) examined and discussed policy and regulatory options open to Qatar.

Since early 2018, the Qatar Central Bank, being the main financial regulator in the State, has banned all trading in the ‘virtual currency’ ‘bitcoin’. Although many other regulators around the world have taken a similar stance, this has not stopped or deterred the growth of bitcoin and other virtual currencies globally. One of the main dangers of such technologies that was highlighted in the Roundtable discussion was the risk it posed to anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorism financing (CTF) efforts. The College of Law at Qatar University has been at the forefront of developing Qatar’s national AML/CTF capacities through a joint international program with Boston University.

Dr. Paul Latimer, from Swinburne University in Melbourne Australia was the lead discussant at the Roundtable. Dr. Latimer outlined the approach taken in Australia to the regulation of digital currencies and highlighted the ‘hands off’ approach of the regulators in Australia. He explained that under Australian Law digital currencies were not classified as ‘legal tender’ (ruling out a role for the Reserve Bank of Australia) and also not classified as a ‘Financial Product’ (ruling out a role for the corporate watch dog the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)). According to Dr. Latimer, who is a prominent and highly respected authority on commercial law in Australia, digital currencies such as bitcoin are currently regulated under normal consumer protection laws and this perhaps needs to be re-examined.

The event was part of a Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) 3-year project exploring regulatory options for Qatar with respect to financial technology. Project Lead, Dr. Andrew Dahdal, noted that “the event was deeply insightful as it included experts in IT and Information Systems as well as finance and law.” Dr. Dahdal emphasized the need for continued interdisciplinary dialogue so that innovation and technology is not stifled by regulation, and Qatar can continue to attract FinTech players that share its vision in embracing the economy of tomorrow.

The Centre for Law and Development is an industry funded think tank within the College of Law. It is committed to the enhancement of law and regulation in Qatar in order to achieve the economic and sustainability targets contained in Qatar National Vision 2030. According to its director, Dr. Jon Truby, “The current focus of the Centre on FinTech related issues is both in alignment with national priorities and in sync with international developments.”

The event was made possible by the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) award NPRP 11S-1119-170016 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of the Qatar Foundation).