Fitch Rates Iraq's Gulf Commercial Bank 'CCC+'

By John Lee.

Fitch Ratings has assigned Gulf Commercial Bank (GCB) a Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of ‘CCC+’.

GCB is a privately-owned bank, headquartered in Baghdad and regulated by the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI).

More here.

(Source: Fitch Ratings)

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By John Lee.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Iraq has announced that Iraq has been removed from its list of countries deemed to carry a high risk of money laundering.

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad on Sunday, Ville Varjola tweeted:

“Bringing the good news today to HE Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that Iraq has been taken off the list of countries at high risk of money laundering by the EU. Will pave the way for deepening financial cooperation and investment.”

Al-Kadhimi responded:

“The decision of the EU to delist Iraq from the list of high risk countries on AML/CTF is a manifestation of our effective diplomatic efforts. We will continue working diligently to serve our national interests, and achieve Iraq’s deserved status.”

As of Monday evening there appears to be no official confirmation of the change on the EU’s website.

Iraq was added to the EU’s list of high-risk third countries in September 2016.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, it announced its own list of high risk countries in April 2021, which did not include Iraq.

In July, Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi asked the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to remove Iraq from the list.

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Iraqi Judges and Financial Investigators prepare Taskforce Investigations

The Federal Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, the Kurdistan Judicial Council and UNDP Iraq, with support from the U.S. Government, launched a series of workshops for investigative judges, prosecutors, investigators, auditors and financial analysts from all across Iraq in late November 2021.

These workshops will aid Iraqi institutions involved in organized crime investigations, including corruption and money laundering, to better investigate and prosecute these crimes.

The workshops will help institutions such as courts, the Ministry of the Interior, Commission of Integrity, and the Federal and Kurdistan Board of Supreme Audit and the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Office to develop financial evidence by tracking funds used in crimes and identifying criminal profits for confiscation.

The workshops, designed to enhance cooperation among the institutions by sharing institutional knowledge, investigative tools, skills and experience, continued through December and will also occur throughout 2022.

The workshops cover topics such as investigating corruption in public procurement, gathering and analysing evidence, and recovering illegally obtained assets. Knowledge from Iraqi practitioners will feed into a handbook on financial investigation procedures.

Taghreed Muhammad Ali, Director of the Administrative Investigation Department in the Federal Board of Supreme Audit, said that “the workshop deals with an important topic – financial crimes – by updating investigation approaches and tools, and providing the skills and experiences required for investigative judges, investigators, financial analysts, and auditors. It contributes to building stronger ties between the participating agencies and the investigative judges, who play a major role in this regard.”

Public Prosecutor Badr Al-din Albarzanji from the Ministry of Justice, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, said, “the participants can practice their skills on a real, complete and practical case, and through the workshop every detail of this case is discussed and compared with the legal investigation procedures found in national Iraqi laws.”

UNDP Iraq resident representative Zena Ali Ahmad said, “Thanks to the Government of the United States for their support. This information exchange between government, legal and financial entities in Iraq is vital to enhance the ability of judges and investigators to prosecute complex organised and financial crimes in Iraq.”

(Source: UN)

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The Board of Governors of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved the application of Iraq to join the Bank.

Iraq becomes AIIB’s 51st regional member, bringing the Bank’s approved membership to 105 in total.

As a multilateral development bank with the mission of financing infrastructure for tomorrow, AIIB aims to support its members achieve their development goals and is committed to working together with them to support their transition to a more resilient and inclusive economy and help them achieve long-term green sustainable development through innovative financing tools and public-private partnerships.

Prospective members, including Iraq, will officially join AIIB once they complete the required membership procedures and deposit the first capital installment with the Bank. The shares allocated to the new prospective members come from the Bank’s existing pool of unallocated shares.

(Source: AIIB)

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Zwipe, INC to pilot Biometric Payment Cards in Iraq

By John Lee.

Norwegian biometric authentication firm Zwipe and International Network for Cards and Digital Payment Services (INC) have announced that they will pilot Biometric Payment Cards in Iraq.

According to a press release from Zwipe, this will be the first biometric payment card pilot in the country, and INC will be offering issuance of white label biometric cards as a service for banks and other payment companies.

In collaboration with Zwipe, INC will incorporate biometric payment cards in its portfolio and offer it as a standard payment product to its client banks in the Iraqi market, with the first client being INC’s own NEO Visa cards which will be introduced as the first biometric plastic cards in Iraq.

This development was made possible through INC’s strategic partner Nymcard which confirmed in September 2021 its collaboration with the Norwegian technology company Zwipe to bring biometric payment cards to the MENA region.

(Source: Zwipe)

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Iraq Announces Second Construction Bond Issuance

By John Lee.

The Ministry of Finance has directed the Public Debt Department, in cooperation with the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) to launch a second issue of construction bonds, which will be tradable on the stock market.

The bonds, also know as a “binaa bonds”, will be available for trading for a period of one month, and will be sold in two forms:

  1. IQD500,000 bonds with annual interest of 6 percent for two years; and,
  2. IQD1,000,000 bonds with annual interest of 7 percent for four years.

These are the same terms as were offered in the first issue of binaa bonds, which were fully subscribed last month.

The Ministry did not specify the total value of the issue, but the first issue raised 1 trillion dinars (£685 million).

It has called on citizens wishing to purchase the bonds to submit their applications through authorized banks.

(Source: Ministry of Finance)

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Sustainable Living in Iraq: A Milestone 1,000 SMEs Financed Through IOM’s Enterprise Development Fund

At the conclusion of Iraq’s devastating conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), small and medium enterprises (SMEs) found themselves without access to the finance necessary to rebuild in the wake of the war’s large-scale destruction.

In 2018, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq launched the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF), a financing mechanism to provide SMEs with access to capital to stimulate their recovery and growth and increase their demand for workers.

Since then, the EDF has supported 1,000 Iraqi businesses across the country to help create 4,975 jobs for men and women, returnees and host community members alike, in key economic sectors. On 14 December 2021, IOM Iraq marked this achievement with a ceremony in Baghdad.

“In the face of wide-spread economic decline in Iraq, celebrating such progress supports momentum for economic recovery across the country, particularly in locations with large displaced and returnee populations,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri. “As 2021 ends, we can see many opportunities to support decent, sustainable work opportunities in Iraq’s private sector. IOM is thankful for the collaboration with the Government of Iraq and our partners to carry out this innovative and essential programming.”

The EDF uses a demand-driven, market-based approach to identify businesses with the greatest chance of success to grow and create jobs. Regular research allows IOM Iraq to continuously adapt and improve to target critical sectors – such as agriculture and renewable energy – and specific groups – such as women entrepreneurs and SMEs combatting the spread of COVID-19.

Jobs don’t just increase income and stimulate spending; they also give people a sense of purpose and dignity. The ability to make a sustainable living is also a key factor in decisions to migrate and return.

Since the programme’s start, EDF grantees have hired 753 women into full-time, paid employment; and 92% of people hired by EDF grantees were either unemployed (55%) or in unstable daily employment (37%) previously. Efforts also aim to protect workers by promoting employment contracts, minimum wages and a focus on safety in the workplace.

Interventions will continue to evolve to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. The EDF program has been supported by the governments of the United States, Japan, Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and by the European Union and Korea International Cooperation Agency.

(Source: UN)

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Iraq, UAE sign MoU on Banking Supervision

The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) and the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 12th December, to enhance cooperation on banking supervision matters.

The MoU covers three main areas, including control and supervisory issues, the exchange of supervisory information, and strengthening bilateral co-operation on training workers and upgrading the professional skills of both parties, in addition to technical assistance and knowledge exchanges.

The MoU was signed by Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the CBUAE, and Mustafa Ghaleb Mukheef, Governor of the CBI.

Under this agreement, the Central Bank of the UAE and Iraq will exchange information and communications during licensing processes and on-going supervision of banks and other financial institutions operating in both countries, in an effort to ensure effective cross-border supervision, while maintaining the complete information confidentiality.

Commenting on the MoU signing, Balama, Governor of the CBUAE, said:

“At the CBUAE, we are keen to strengthen co-operation with our counterparts in the CBI to achieve common goals in enhancing banking supervision, and exchange the necessary information to advance the interests of both parties to protect our financial systems.”

Mustafa Ghaleb Mukheef, Governor of the CBI, said:

“We believe that the time has come to raise the level of financial and banking relations between the two countries in proportion to the volume of trade and investments between us, as well as to enhance joint co-operation to address the challenges facing the banking sector.”

(Source: CBUAE)

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Iraqi to borrow $76m for Great Samawa Water Project

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet (pictured) has authorised the Minister of Finance to borrow $76 million from the state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) to finance the Great Samawa Water Project.

(Source: General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers)

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Trade Bank of Iraq joins IBBC

The Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) has re-joined the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

TBI were original founding members of IBBC and we are delighted to say they are now back in full participation mode, with President Dr Salem Chalabi taking a lead role at the recent IBBC Autumn conference Dubai. At the conference Dr Chalabi announced some key strategic changes to the bank’s strategy and delivery.

TBI have significant plans to evolve their operations not only in terms of extending branches to overseas locations, but also within Iraq, to enable corporate online banking and wider use of cross-border electronic payments, and the development of strategic partners for investment within and beyond Iraq. Key areas include investment in infrastructure and renewable energy.

Christophe Michels, MD of IBBC said:

We are really delighted to see the return of TBI to IBBC and know that our members in Iraq and internationally will welcome a modern Iraqi bank capable of cross-border and online banking in particular.

“We also recognise the importance of TBI as founder members of IBBC and the elevation of Dr Chalabi as CEO, with whom we foresee a productive and supportive engagement with IBBC and expanding the private sector in Iraq.

 (Source: IBBC)

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