The Qatar regulator issued a notice on Sunday “regarding the result of an enforcement and disciplinary action against [Guardian Wealth Management Qatar (GWMQ)]”.
A financial penalty of QAR2.5m was imposed for contraventions to anti-money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rules.
An additional QAR1.09m was levied for “general regulatory contraventions”.
In addition to the QAR3.59m (£0.7m, $1m, €0.8m), GWMQ has to pay the costs and expenses of the investigation conducted by the Regulatory Authority.
Good, respectful and professional
In a lengthy statement defending Guardian’s conduct, joint chief executive David Howell said the company has “in our opinion, always maintained a good, respectful and professional working relationship with our regulators and supervisors at the [QFC] Regulatory Authority”.
He added that Guardian worked closely with the regulator during its six years in the country.
Howell said the company had undergone a risk assessment visit (RAV) every year; which had, at most, uncovered six “findings” during the 2013 visit.
On average, during the six years, the regulator made four or five “findings” each year, with none “resulting in any financial penalty of any kind”, Howell said.
The company’s decision to exit Qatar was made in late 2015, following “a particularly challenging operating environment” as well as “other factors beyond our control”.
Change in tone
According to Howell, the Regulatory Authority proceeded with an RAV in January 2016, despite Guardian having notified it of its intention to cease business activities in Qatar the previous month.
The January 2016 visit was “in our opinion, undertaken in an entirely different tone and manner” compared with previous assessments, Howell said.
The visit resulted in circa 31 inspection findings of what the regulator considered as issues and breaches.
“A marked difference from an operation that they had closely monitored up to that point for the six preceding years.”
Howell believes the company and its principals have “been unfairly treated” since Guardian decided to leave the QFC.
He also expressed surprise that “despite six years of demonstrated compliance and close supervision, the QFCRA suddenly identified the number contraventions, the scale of which were never highlighted before”.
Howell described the fine as a “disproportionate financial penalty”.