Notabene, a crypto compliance firm that offers compliance solutions with FATF Travel Rule, has shown interest in Qatar’s proposed digital assets regulatory rules framework and has commented on Qatar’s consultation paper.

Notabene offers Safe Transact platform that helps financial institutions and crypto businesses unlock their full potential in the digital economy. With a focus on security, privacy, and end-user experience, Notabene customers use a multi-source data and software to automate real-time decision-making, perform counterparty sanctions screening, identify self-hosted wallets, and complete the smooth roll out of Travel Rule compliance, all in line with global and local regulations.

In a recent tweet on X Notabene welcomed the opportunity to comment on Qatar’s proposed digital assets regulatory rules consultation paper.

Notabene noted that they applaud the Qatar Financial Centre (“QFC”) Regulatory Authority (“Regulatory Authority”) and the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (“QFC Authority”) for taking the time to put together a comprehensive framework for digital assets.

Notabene added,” The process undertaken by both the QFC Regulatory Authority and QFC Authority to solicit public engagement on this important topic and welcome the opportunity to be part of the ongoing dialogue.”

Notabene, the crypto industry’s y pre-transaction authorization decision making platform, helps to identify and stop high-risk activity before it occurs. The platform offers a secure, holistic view of crypto transactions, enabling customers to automate real-time decision-making, perform counterparty sanctions screening, identify self-hosted wallets, conduct VASP Due Diligence, and complete the smooth rollout of Travel Rule compliance, in line with global regulations.

According to Notabene only Travel Rule compliance gives VASPs transaction-level counterparty and sanction insight, allowing them to recognize if their clients are sending transactions to sanctioned entities, wallets, or jurisdictions. VASPs worldwide are in different stages of compliance, which leaves many companies vulnerable to exposure to sanctioned individuals.

In its comment to Qatar’s consultation paper, Notabene states, “In particular, strict compliance with the Travel Rule is a prerequisite for VASPs to obtain licenses in these jurisdictions. We recommend that the QFC Regulatory Authority take the same approach. The ideal way to avoid dealing with non-compliance after settlement and its associated challenges is to ensure both TSPs assess and approve the
transaction before the Originator TSP executes it. This is in line with FATF’s recommendations.”

Qatar recently released its digital assets framework requesting feedback on it by January 2nd 2024.

Henk Jan Hoogendoorn has confirmed that Qatar Genesis Technologies, a Qatar University tech spinoff is working with Qatar Financial Center Authority on possible use cases in their digital assets labs.

Lebanese-Canadian national Mazen El Masri, Co-Founder and CEO of Genesis Technologies, the tech company which developed Maxya, is working with QFC digital assets labs on several blockchain use cases.

As per the post the possible use case could include tokenization, security tokes and fractional ownership.

On Sunday October 29th, Qatar announced one of the biggest digital assets initiatives in the country and the GCC region, the Qatar Innovation Dome for digital assets. As per the live event keynotes, the digital assets lab will develop tokenization platforms and ecosystems for everything that has value whether tangible assets or intangible assets including real estate assets, securities, Sukuk, bonds and others in the future utilizing DLT ( distributed ledger technologies), blockchain, and smart contracts.

Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) signed MOUs with Blockchain solution provider R3 and Blockchain SettleMint platform. The agreement with Settlemint will also as with R3 work on Blockchain and digital asset initiatives in the financial sector in the digital assets lab.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, Chief Financial Sector Officer at Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) announced the commencement of next steps with Blockchain solutions provider Settlemint to tokenize private shares and equity for companies.

As noted in the post, “ Next steps on tokenization of private shares / Private Equity discussed with our digital asset lab partner SettleMint both for Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority and any  investment manager that would that would like to tokenize or fractionalize investments.”

Matthew Van Niekerk, Co-founder, SettleMint, commenting on the post stated, ” Thank you for hosting us both physically and digitally for the meeting Henk Jan Hoogendoorn! Really appreciated the opportunity to exchange views on the future of finance, financial markets infrastructure and the tokenization of private securities. Exciting times ahead for the industry!”

In April 2023, Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) signed its second Blockchain MOU with Settlemint, after signing its first with R3. The agreement with Settlemint aimed to work on Blockchain and digital asset initiatives in the financial sector. QFCA and Settlemint agreed to explore potential synergies with industry participants, including financial institutions, fintech firms, and corporate organizations, to accelerate the adoption of blockchain and digital asset business models and solutions.

This announcement also comes immediately after the Qatar Financial Centre launched its digital assets Lab under the name Qatar Innovation dome. The event which was held on Sunday 29th of October 2023 included various keynotes, that explained how the digital assets lab will develop tokenization platforms and ecosystems for everything that has value whether tangible assets or intangible assets including real estate assets, securities, Sukuk, bonds and others in the future utilizing DLT ( distributed ledger technologies), blockchain, and smart contracts.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Financial Centre in his speech announced that one of the first use cases to be explored within the digital assets lab will be tokenized carbon assets. He goes on to state, “Secondly will be tokenizing private company shares to facilitate trading and management of these shares, as well as transforming Sukuk bonds into digital assets in addition to tokenized real estate to facilitate the buying and selling of real estate assets.”

The Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), the legal and tax arm of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC have signed an MOU with the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF), a research institute of the National University of Singapore (NUS), to embark on projects encompassing ESG, Fintech, digital assets, Web3 and other emerging technologies.

In addition to these efforts, both partners will actively facilitate the exchange of knowledge and insights to further their common goals and objectives.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer, QFC, expressed his optimism about this partnership, stating, “We are excited to join forces with the Asian Institute of Digital Finance at the National University of Singapore to explore and capitalize on the numerous opportunities in the ever-evolving digital landscape. This partnership reflects our commitment to innovation and our belief in the power of collaboration to drive positive change. We see this collaboration as a significant step, not only in the direction of constructing a more inclusive financial sector but also in forging a path towards a more sustainable future.”

Likewise, Associate Professor Huang Ke Wei, Executive Director, NUS Asian Institute of Digital Finance expressed their enthusiasm for the collaboration, saying, “The NUS Asian Institute of Digital Finance empowers the future of finance through digital innovation and academic excellence, and provides thought leadership through a holistic blend of education, research, and business incubation. Our vision is to catalyse the evolution of the digital economy by fostering innovation and imparting knowledge. This collaboration with QFC marks a significant step towards fostering cross-regional knowledge exchange, setting the stage for a brighter, interconnected digital future.” The partnership between the QFC and NUS AIDF underscores their shared commitment to innovation and sustainability and catalysing positive global transformation by leveraging technology.

QFC has been moving forward with its digital asset strategy and framework.

On their LinkedIn page, the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) announced  that in its journey to accelerate the development of Qatar’s digital ecosystem it will be launching the QFC Digital Assets Lab, a ground-breaking programme aimed at accelerating open innovation and promoting peer collaboration within the industry through proof-of-concept and proof-of-value, on September 6th 2023.

As per the post, “ It is with pleasure that we invite you to join us on this momentous event, that will be streamed live via LinkedIn and YouTube. The event will present the qualifying criteria for entry, the Lab’s operating model and key benefits, and announce the opening for applications.”

The post adds, “With the QFC Digital Assets Lab, we aim to seamlessly integrate transformative technologies into real-world applications, spanning finance, supply chain management, energy and sustainability, compliance and reporting, healthcare and beyond.”

A few weeks prior to this announcement, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn , Chief Financial Sector Officer at Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority revealed that the digital assets framework that the authority has been working on will soon be launched along with the digital asset lab.

As noted, QFC is working with Price Waterhouse Cooper ( PWC) to finalize the digital assets framework and the launch of the digital assets lab.

While Qatar has not opened up to the crypto scene, its financial center is opening up to digital assets enabling them to tokenize asset classes to facilitate the needs of qualified investors with its digital assets framework.

In addition Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) financial business center has been moving forward with its blockchain strategy.It signed MOUs with both Blockchain solution provider R3 Blockchain SettleMint platform. The agreement with Settlemint will also as with R3 work on Blockchain and digital asset initiatives in the financial sector.

Article updated on October 4th 2023 with new launch date information.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn , Chief Financial Sector Officer at Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority revealed that the digital assets framework that the authority has been working on will soon be launched along with the digital asset lab.

As noted, QFC is working with Price Waterhouse Cooper ( PWC) to finalize the digital assets framework and the launch of the digital assets lab.

As Hoogendoorn noted, “ We are working on digitalassets framework together with Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA) supported by the expertise of PwC .We are making good progress on preparation of Digital Asset Lab to be launched soon.”

Prior to this Qatar Financial Authority had taken several inititiatves towards advancing DLT, Blockchain and digital assets within the financial sector.

In May speaking to LaraontheBlock, Hoogendoorn stated, “We are developing our digital assets framework to allow for public tokenization of assets, including securities, bonds, and real-estate.” He emphasized that they will not go into crypto, NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) or commodities at this time.

In addition Qatar Financial Centre Authority and Blockchain solution provider R3 signed an MOU to develop and grow Qatar’s fintech industry using technologies such as DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology), as well as an MOU with Blockchain entity Settlemint.

In August 2022 Qatar had released a national consultation paper about the “National Blockchain Blueprint for Qatar”. The paper was collaboratively developed by CRA, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and Qatar University. The final version was released in March 2023.

Again it seems countries across the GCC and MENA region are embracing blockchain, digital assets, and to some degree virtual assets, the future is looking crypto bright.

Dr Mohamed Abdallah and Dr Aiman Erbad, Associate Professors at  Qatar’s HBKU College of Science and Engineering published an article on how Qatar’s Blockchain blueprint will boost the adoption of blockchain and their recommendations for accelerating the growth. They proposed hosting a high-performance cloud based blockchain platform to accelerate prototyping and testing or creating a physically distributed blockchain network among different institutions, including ministries and universities, which can serve as a test bed that can also host actual blockchain applications, among other recommendations.

The College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), as well as the College of Engineering at Qatar University (QU), and the Communications and Regulatory Authority jointly developed the National Blockchain Blueprint, aimed at defining the requirements and incentives necessary for the adoption of blockchain technology in Qatar.

As per the article, the blueprint has several goals, including facilitating the emergence of startups and new companies, identifying successful methods through pilot projects, promoting creativity and innovation, and upgrading infrastructure to enable a conducive environment for blockchain technology.

The authors also discuss various recommendations that could be incorporated within the Blockchain blueprint.

One of the key recommendations of the blueprint is to encourage the development of pilot projects in priority sectors such as Fintech, Energy, and Health.

The Blockchain blueprint also wants to provide an adequate incubation environment for promising blockchain startups. The authors recommend creating a new consortium-based funding organization that involves all stakeholders to promote blockchain-based startups and businesses.

To facilitate the deployment and testing of new blockchain applications, The authors also recommend hosting a high-performance cloud-based blockchain platform to accelerate prototyping and testing.

The final recommendation is to create a physically distributed blockchain network among different institutions, including ministries and universities, which can serve as a test bed that can host actual blockchain applications. By having a distributed network, blockchain-based solutions can be tested in a real-world environment, and the risks and potential opportunities can be identified.

Qatar has been moving forward with its blockchain initiatives and the Qatar Financial Centre Authority has been at the forefront of integrating blockchain, DLT, digital assets into the financial market. More recently they even discussed digital assets for Islamic Finance and signed an MOU with Malaysian Labuan IBFC well known for its Islamic finance products.

Finally and most recently Qatar Financial Authority were in discussions with Qatar Development Bank to discuss the need for digitization of products and services in digital assets, kYC, SMEFinance and the metaverse. 

It would seem that the Qatar Blockchain blueprint is moving forward in great strides. 

While Qatar has not opened up to the crypto scene, its financial center is opening up to digital assets enabling them to tokenize asset classes to facilitate the needs of qualified investors with its digital assets framework.

Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, Chief Financial Sector Officer, at Qatar Financial Center Authority speaking to Lara on the Block, stated, “ We are developing our digital assets framework to allow for public tokenization of assets, including securities, bonds, and real-estate.”

He emphasizes that they will not go into crypto, NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) or commodities at this time.

Hoogendoorn had discussed digitization in the financial sector in Qatar as well as their digital assets project and the new Fintech strategy of QCB (Qatar Central Bank) during a fireside chat on Digitizing the Financial Sector in Qatar, moderated by Robert Wigley OStJ, BSc, Hon DBA.

Furthermore, Aleksander Biesaga, Acting Project Manager, Roland Berger in a recent LinkedIn post noted, “It was a pleasure to speak to the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority on unlocking a new era of ownership, trading and investment via digital assets and tokenization.”

He was referring to the workshop by Roland Berger on the new digital assets framework for Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority and Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA).

Both entities QFC, and QFCRA, according to Hoogendoorn are developing and will facilitate the needs of qualified investors and investment firms to tokenize asset classes. He states, “We are looking forward to become a jurisdiction of choice.”

So it seems that while Qatar may not be warming up to crypto, it is moving forward  with its blockchain strategy and digital assets. In Q1 the Qatar Financial Authority signed an MOU with Blockchain entity Settlemint to forward digital asset industry and with R3 Blockchain firm for DLT (Distributed Ledger technology)  

Once again the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA) financial business center is on a sprint run with Blockchain, first with its MOU signed with Blockchain solution provider R3 and now with its MOU signed Blockchain SettleMint platform. The agreement with Settlemint will also as with R3 work on Blockchain and digital asset initiatives in the financial sector. 

The MoU aims to explore potential synergies with industry participants, including financial institutions, fintech firms, and corporate organisations, to accelerate the adoption of blockchain and digital asset business models and solutions.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer, QFC, stated “We are delighted to collaborate with SettleMint Blockchain LTD to explore use cases of blockchain technology and digital assets in Qatar’s financial industry. This partnership reflects the QFC’s commitment to supporting innovation and identifying new opportunities that benefit our stakeholders and Qatar’s wider financial ecosystem. To that end, we look forward to future joint initiatives with SettleMint.”

Matthew Van Niekerk, Founder & CEO, SettleMint, added, “At SettleMint, we are passionate about empowering developers to easily build on web3 infrastructure and enabling companies to unleash the full potential of blockchain technology for their clients and the ecosystems in which they operate. SettleMint has been supporting the financial industry for several years from experimentation to production application. We are thrilled to partner with the QFC and leverage their expertise and network to drive blockchain adoption and innovation in Qatar’s financial sector.”

Settlemint was one of the first blockchain companies to set up shop in the GCC region back in 2016. By 2021, Settlemint was in discussions in Bahrain and UAE with government and private sectors alongside their partners in the region. 

Settlemint was collaborating on projects in supplychain, finance and banking sectors. 

At the end of 2022, SettleMint raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Molten Ventures. The raised funds were to be used to solidify their position in Europe, Middle East, India and Singapore as well as expand into the Japanese market.