Qatar’s emir stripped Finance Minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi of his duties as minister after being arrested earlier in the day over embezzlement allegations, according to a statement on Thursday.
In a statement carried by state news agency QNA, the public prosecutor said Emadi was being questioned over allegations of embezzlement, abuse of power and crimes related to the public sector. An investigation was under way.
The administrative office of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said the Emir had relieved Emadi of his duties, which would now be handled by the trade and industry minister, Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari.
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.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Reuters that the probe was related to Emadi’s capacity as finance minister, and not to his posts at either the sovereign fund or the bank.
“There are no allegations related to his roles in any other entities. We are confident that our companies and entities are running the highest levels of corporate governance and we are conducting regular reviews and audits for the governance of our companies,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Business is continuing as usual in our companies and our sovereign wealth fund,” he added. He declined to provide further details of what he described as an ongoing investigation.
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 percent last year due to the coronavirus crisis and lower global energy demand.
However, the contraction was less severe than expected and the smallest in the Gulf region, according to the International Monetary Fund. Emadi was named as 2020’s best minister in the region by The Banker, an international financial magazine.
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.