Top GCC News

Former Barclays CEO John Varley Told to Testify in Appeal Over Qatar Fundraising Fine

Former Barclays CEO John Varley has been ordered by a London tribunal to give evidence at the British bank's appeal against a 50-million pound ($65-million) fine over its 2008 fundraising with Qatar.

In their decision, Upper Tribunal judges Rupert Jones and Jonathan Cannan dismissed arguments that it would be unfair or oppressive to force the retired executive to re-visit events of 16 years ago when a three-week appeal kicks off on November 25.

"We have reached the firm conclusion that Mr Varley should be required to give evidence at the final hearing of these references," they said.

The appeal turns the spotlight back onto Barclays' credit-crisis era fundraising five years after senior judges said there was insufficient evidence against Varley and he was acquitted of fraud charges. Three top executives were cleared in 2020.

But the regulatory case is back in court after being placed on hold pending the criminal proceedings.
The Financial Conduct Authority fined Barclays in 2013 over the bank's communications to the market during two capital raisings in June and October 2008, when the bank avoided a state bailout during the credit crisis by securing 11 billion pounds from Gulf investors.

The bank also struck "advisory service agreements" (ASAs) with Qatar that totalled 322 million pounds, which were not fully disclosed to the market.

The FCA alleges Varley, who had faced a one-million-pound fine and ban before the regulator discontinued proceedings against him, "recklessly" approved an announcement and documents related to the October fundraising without ensuring they were not misleading, false or deceptive.

The FCA also wants to establish that Varley had previously given "untruthful and evasive accounts", including a statement in an interview that the ASAs and capital raisings were unconnected, the tribunal decision showed.


Saudi Arabia's Cabinet Endorses New Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority Law

The Saudi Cabinet, chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, approved the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority Law on Tuesday.

During the meeting, updates were given on recent diplomatic engagements, including productive discussions between Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman and leaders from France, Russia, and Iraq.

These discussions were aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and boosting cooperation across various sectors.

Minister of Media Salman Al-Dossary noted that the Cabinet also reviewed the latest developments in regional and international affairs, highlighting Saudi Arabia's proactive role in mediating and supporting peace initiatives in Gaza and Yemen.

The Kingdom’s efforts underscore the critical need for international cooperation to maintain regional stability.

Additionally, the Cabinet welcomed the recent advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, which declared the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegal.

The Cabinet reiterated Saudi Arabia’s call for actionable steps towards a just and comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant international resolutions.

Domestically, the Cabinet reviewed economic indicators, observing the stabilization of inflation rates at levels that are favourable compared to global trends, reflecting the effectiveness of the Kingdom’s economic policies in mitigating global price fluctuations.

Other significant decisions made during the meeting included authorisations for ministers to negotiate and sign various memorandums of understanding with international partners in fields such as culture, consumer protection, mineral resources, and human rights.

The Cabinet also approved bilateral employment agreements with Gambia and Tanzania, as well as tax agreements with Kuwait and Gambia to avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion.

These agreements underscore Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fostering robust international labour and economic relations.

The Cabinet reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's dedication to environmental conservation efforts, including the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough and a memorandum of understanding with Bahrain for sustainable waste management.

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Kuwait Upholds Decision to Drop Case Against Hacker Accused of Targeting Pentagon

Kuwait’s highest court has upheld a previous court ruling to drop a lawsuit against a young Kuwaiti man accused of hacking numerous US websites, including the Pentagon.

The Court of Cassation confirmed the verdict, dropping the case against the 28-year-old, who has been described by Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas as the "most dangerous Kuwaiti hacker."

He was accused of hacking 200 secret US government sites, including the Department of Defence, displaying classified information, and seizing money.

The court ruled the case dropped, stating it is unlawful to try the defendant more than 10 years after the incident. The defendant faced criminal charges for hacking the Pentagon website, accessing sensitive weaponry locations, and releasing the information in 2011.

In October last year, a Kuwaiti criminal court dropped the case against the man, citing that he could not be tried for actions committed from 2010 to 2012.

The court also dropped charges of jeopardising Kuwait’s international relations due to his hacking of the Pentagon website.

Prosecutors had earlier charged the then-teenager with hacking more than 200 websites, some containing classified information, as well as fraud for obtaining money through deceit by promoting his own website to solicit fees from victims.

Last September, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported that a hacker had targeted the Kuwaiti Finance Ministry and displayed data obtained from a website linked to the ministry.

According to the report, the hacker gave the ministry seven days to pay a ransom of 15 bitcoins (around £310,000) to retrieve the allegedly exclusive data or he would sell it to others.

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Kuwait Imposed Average of One Death Sentence per Month in Drug Cases Last Year

Kuwaiti courts issued an average of one death sentence per month against drug dealers last year as the country intensifies its efforts to combat narcotics trafficking and smuggling.

Twelve drug dealers were handed death sentences in Kuwait in 2023 after being convicted of smuggling or trading in illicit substances in various cases, Al Qabas newspaper reported, citing judicial statistics.

Three of the inmates were caught growing narcotics in home gardens and other places, as well as processing drugs for trading. The remaining convicts were found guilty of possessing and smuggling drugs in collaboration with international gangs.

According to the statistics, 59 other convicts received life sentences on charges of drug trafficking. These included eight defendants convicted of planting narcotics, 32 others for possessing and bringing in drugs with the intention of trading.

Twelve others were convicted of possessing drugs for personal use, four were found guilty of possessing psychotropic drugs, and three more defendants were convicted of drug taking and trafficking.

A total of 6,911 verdicts were delivered last year in Kuwait in drug-related cases. These included 6,034 conviction rulings and 877 acquittals.

The high conviction rates were attributed to the “professionalism in seizure and inspection” by law enforcement officers, according to a legal expert.

Last week, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry announced it had foiled an attempt to smuggle nearly 160 kilograms of hashish into the country. Four persons were arrested in connection with the attempt.

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Will Other GCC Countries Follow Oman's Lead in Introducing Personal Income Tax?

Oman is anticipated to introduce personal income tax, making it the first country in the GCC to do so, sometime next year.

This follows the kingdom’s Shura Council advancing the draft law to the State Council. Since the bill is nearing the end of its legislative approvals, it is likely to be introduced in 2025.

The initial bill was drafted back in 2020. Analysts expect other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to also introduce personal income tax; however, not in the near future. Oman could serve as a template for launching the tax in other GCC countries.

Global financial institutions have been encouraging the UAE and other GCC countries to introduce new taxes to expand their revenues, away from the petrodollars. The UAE recently introduced a 9 per cent tax on corporate incomes to boost its revenues.

Most expatriates and nationals in Oman will not be impacted by this new tax regime. Quoting reports, Emirates NBD Research said that foreign nationals will be liable to personal income tax of 5 per cent to 9 per cent on income from Oman over $100,000.

For Omani citizens, the threshold will be orders of magnitude higher at net global income over $1 million, which would be taxed at 5 per cent. “Initially, at least the new PIT will not impact the majority of people in Oman, whether expatriate workers or citizens,” Emirates NBD Research said in its latest report on the UAE’s neighbouring country.

“The new personal income tax could be introduced as early as 2025, which would put the country back in the vanguard of widening the tax base in the GCC. Oman has long had a corporate income tax, even in a limited capacity.

It was introduced in 2009 and raised from 12 per cent to 15 per cent in 2017, with the tax only now introduced in the UAE. However, Oman subsequently lagged behind the UAE and Saudi Arabia in introducing VAT,” it added.

There are 2.2 million expatriates in Oman, making up 42.3 per cent of the total population of 5.2 million. Within this 2.2 million, the majority (1.4 million) have an educational attainment level of less than a general diploma.

“While it is not a perfect indicator of income, only 214,503 expatriate workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher diploma, so the number of foreign workers on the kind of $100,000-plus salary that would be liable to personal income tax is likely lower still than this – so fewer than 4.2 per cent of the population at large.

The number of Omani citizens meeting the $1 million annual income threshold is likely to be similarly small,” the report said.

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Saudi Inspections Reveal 20,093 Violations of Residency, Labour and Border Security Laws

The Ministry of Interior conducted inspection campaigns in the Kingdom between 4th July and 10th July 2024 to ensure compliance with residency, labour, and border security regulations.

Across Saudi Arabia, 20,093 violations were recorded: 12,460 of residency, 5,400 of border security and 2,233 of labour laws.
Some 1,737 individuals attempted to cross the border into the Kingdom illegally, of whom 42 per cent were Yemenis, 57 per cent Ethiopians, and 1 per cent from other nationalities.

Forty-nine people were arrested for attempting to leave the Kingdom illegally. Sixteen people involved in transporting, sheltering and employing violators were arrested.

A total of 19,841 expatriates (18,209 men and 1,632 women) are currently undergoing procedures to enforce regulations.
9,438 people were detained for violating laws and instructed to contact their countries’ embassies or consulates to obtain proper travel documentation. 3,833 were instructed to arrange their departure, and 11,655 were repatriated.

The Ministry of Interior has warned that any person who facilitates the illegal entry of individuals into the Kingdom, transports them within its territory, provides them shelter, or any other assistance or service may be penalised with up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to SR1 million, and that the vehicles used for transport or houses used for shelter may be impounded.

The ministry stressed that such acts are major crimes that warrant arrest. It also urges people to report any violations by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh, and Eastern regions and 999 and 996 in the rest of the Kingdom.

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Oman Considers Introducing Income Tax in Bid to Diversify Revenue Sources

Oman is considering the introduction of income tax as part of its efforts to diversify revenue sources and enhance fiscal stability. This potential shift marks a departure from the country's longstanding policy of not imposing personal income taxes, relying instead on oil revenues and indirect taxation.
The discussions come as Oman seeks to reduce its dependence on fluctuating oil prices and secure sustainable income streams. Historically, Oman has maintained a tax-free environment to attract expatriates and businesses seeking favourable fiscal conditions.

However, with global economic dynamics evolving and oil revenues becoming increasingly unpredictable, Oman faces pressure to secure stable funding for infrastructure, social programmes and economic diversification. Introducing income tax could provide a reliable revenue source for these initiatives.

The potential introduction of income tax will undergo careful consideration and consultation with stakeholders, including government officials, economists and the public. Proponents argue that such a measure could enhance fiscal stability and support long-term economic resilience amidst global economic uncertainties.

Critics and some segments of the population may express concerns about the potential impact on disposable income and the overall cost of living. Balancing these considerations will be crucial as Oman weighs the pros and cons of this fiscal policy shift.

While specific details and timelines for the implementation of income tax remain unclear, the discussions highlight Oman's proactive stance in adapting to economic realities and ensuring sustainable growth. The outcome of these deliberations could reshape Oman's fiscal landscape and influence broader regional fiscal policies amidst global economic uncertainties.

Observers will closely monitor developments as Oman navigates this potential milestone in its fiscal policy, with implications extending beyond its borders to the wider Gulf region.

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Kuwait Detains 450 Undocumented Migrants; Deportees Barred From GCC Entry for 5 Years

Kuwait has launched a significant security crackdown on illegal foreign residents following the expiration of a three-month amnesty deadline this week.

Approximately 450 individuals who violated the country’s residency regulations were detained in operations conducted across Kuwait's six governorates, shortly after the deadline expired, as reported by Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

This crackdown will be followed by additional large-scale security operations targeting illegal residents who did not take advantage of the amnesty offered by authorities.

The detained undocumented migrants were transported to an accommodation centre and will be interrogated regarding those who harboured and employed them.

Those violating residency rules will be deported from Kuwait within four days, in coordination with their respective embassies to obtain travel documents, especially for those without passports.

Deportees are prohibited from entering other GCC countries for five years, and they will also face a lifelong ban from re-entering Kuwait, according to Al Rai.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry affirmed its commitment to conducting nationwide inspection campaigns.
The ministry urged the public not to harbour violators to avoid penalties and encouraged cooperation in reporting them to authorities via the emergency number 112.

Kuwait extended the deadline, initially set to end on June 17, until June 30, allowing undocumented expatriates to regularise their residency status or voluntarily leave the country. Official figures on how many expats utilised the grace period are not available.

The amnesty, effective from March 17, permitted irregular expatriates with passports to depart Kuwait without paying fines, with the possibility of re-entry.

Those without travel documents could obtain new ones for departure. Kuwait, with a population of 4.8 million, including approximately 3.3 million foreigners, is striving to address population imbalances by prioritising the employment of its citizens, a policy known as "Kuwaitisation".

Individuals or companies in Kuwait employing undocumented migrants face charges of unlawfully sheltering and concealing them. Last year, Kuwait deported a record 42,000 expatriates for violating residency and labour laws, as well as involvement in criminal activities.

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Saudi Nazaha: 155 Government Officials Arrested Over Corruption Charges

A total of 155 government officials have been arrested over corruption charges. Some of the arrested individuals have been released on bail, according to the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha).

Nazaha said in a statement on its X account that its officials carried out a total of 924 inspection raids during the last month of June. Nazaha initiated a number of criminal and administrative cases following the oversight rounds in June, which resulted in the investigation of cases against 382 officials accused of various corruption charges.

These officials are from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Transport and Logistics, and Ministry of Culture, in addition to the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority.

The corruption charges against them include bribery, abuse of power, forgery, and money laundering. The authority said that 155 people were arrested during the course of the investigation.

Nazaha stated that the average number of oversight rounds carried out in the Holy Sites during the Hajj season stood at 9,623. The oversight body had arrested about 5,235 people in corruption cases during the period between 2021 and 2023.

Nazaha said that it shows no leniency while dealing with those involved in financial and administrative corruption.
The authority stated that it will continue to carry out its oversight rounds on government agencies and private establishments in order to monitor and catch anyone who infringes on public funds or exploits their position to achieve personal benefit or harm the public interest, and hold them accountable, even after ending their relationship with the job. 

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St. Petersburg International Legal Forum: Kuwait Aims to Modernise Judicial System

Kuwait's Minister of Justice and Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Dr.Muhammad Al-Wasmi, reaffirmed the country's commitment to advancing its judicial system to align with global developments.

Speaking to KUNA after presiding over the plenary session at the 12th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum in Russia from June 26-28, Al-Wasmi underscored the significance of Kuwait's participation in the event.

Al-Wasmi emphasised that the forum, which spans three days, covers crucial topics related to the judicial system, emerging jurisprudence issues, the latest legislative developments, and the incorporation of technology to modernise judicial practices.

The Kuwaiti delegation aimed to showcase the government's use of electronic systems across various sectors to improve service delivery. Highlighting recent advancements, Al-Wasmi noted that the Ministry of Justice has implemented automated systems within its departments, integrating them with the government services application (Sahel) to streamline processes for litigants.

He stressed Kuwait's recognition of the importance of innovation and technology in the justice sector amidst rapid global changes.

On the forum's sidelines, Minister Al-Wasmi joined a meeting with fellow justice ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. The ministers discussed enhancing cooperation and unifying positions on key issues featured on the forum's agenda.

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SFDA Fines Firm $133,333 for Tampering with Data on Banned Fish Consignment


The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has fined a firm in the Qassim region SR500,000 ($133,333) for tampering with the data of a fish species prohibited from import into Saudi Arabia, with the intent of selling it in the domestic market.

The SFDA reported that the penalty was imposed following a request to inspect a shipment containing eight types of fish in a warehouse imported from outside Saudi Arabia. During the inspection, officials grew suspicious of one fish variety's name in the consignment, as the data on the label and the customs declaration did not match the apparent appearance of the imported fish.

Consequently, samples were taken and all the fish were sorted, revealing that one of the imported varieties did not correspond with the label. It was identified as river tilapia, a species whose import is banned in the Kingdom.

The SFDA stated that this consignment, weighing approximately two tonnes, was rejected, and the firm was referred to the relevant authorities to complete the necessary regulatory procedures and impose penalties as per the law.

According to the Food Law and its executive regulations, the penalties for this violation amount to a fine of SR500,000, along with preventing or suspending the violator from engaging in any activities related to the Food Law.

The violation pertains to any establishment trading or advertising food or its derivatives that contain prohibited, forbidden, contaminated, or banned substances, either internationally or locally, or if the firm was previously subjected to a trading ban.

The SFDA urged consumers to report any violations in establishments under its supervision by calling the unified number 19999 or through the Tameni application.

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Penal Action Against 79 Saudi Car Agents, Distributors for Violating Competition Law


The Saudi General Authority for Competition filed charges against 79 firms operating in the automobile sector, including agents and distributors, for violating the Competition Law during the year 2023.

The violations by these establishments included agreeing to fix prices for manipulation and dividing markets according to geographical regions in a way that curtailed competition and affected consumer welfare. Consequently, the authority filed criminal cases against 64 of these establishments and is currently examining requests submitted by the remaining 15 establishments for settlement of the cases against them.

The authority stated in its report that criminal lawsuits were filed against a number of establishments operating in various sectors. These included three pharmacies and four retail markets for fixing uniform prices for a health product for children.

Lawsuits were also filed against three establishments operating in the poultry and egg production sector for agreeing to fix prices, in addition to filing a criminal case against two computer programming firms for refraining from dealing with other firms and weakening their competitive position.

The authority also announced the initiation of criminal lawsuits against six establishments for their collusion with major companies in bids amounting to SR600 million and the filing of a criminal lawsuit against two wholesale establishments for failing to complete requirements related to their settlement requests.

Among the lawsuits that the authority is working to bring are six establishments working in the field of information technology for their collusion in competitions worth SR7.75 million, five establishments that submitted bids with the health authorities in violation of the Competition Law, and three advertising firms for violating provisions of the law.

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Egypt To Prosecute Travel Agents Over Illegal Pilgrimages to Mecca: Government

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly ordered 16 tourism companies stripped of their licences and referred their managers to the public prosecutor Saturday over illegal pilgrimages to Mecca, the cabinet said.

The order came after countries whose citizens performed this year's haj reported more than 1,100 deaths, many attributed to the oven-like summer heat in Saudi Arabia. An AFP tally, compiling official statements and reports from diplomats involved in the response, put the toll at 1,126, more than half of them from Egypt.

Arab diplomats told AFP earlier this week that Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths -- 630 of them unregistered pilgrims. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had ordered that a "crisis cell" headed by Madbouly follow up on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.

"The prime minister has ordered the licences of these companies to be revoked, their managers to be referred to the public prosecutor and the imposition of a fine to benefit the families of the pilgrims who died because of them," the cabinet statement said.

It said the rise in the number of deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies which "organised the haj programmes using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Mecca" via official channels.

The cabinet statement said more than 50,000 Egyptians joined the pilgrimage officially, and that there were "31 deaths as a result of chronic diseases". It said the travel firms accused of arranging unauthorised haj visits did not provide adequate services, "causing unregistered pilgrims to be exhausted as a result of high temperatures".

On Friday a senior Saudi official defended the Gulf kingdom's management of the pilgrimage. Haj permits are allocated to countries on a quota system and distributed to individuals by lottery.

Even for those who can obtain them, the steep costs spur many to attempt the haj without a permit, though they risk arrest and deportation if caught. The irregular route, which can save pilgrims thousands of dollars, has become increasingly popular since 2019 when Saudi Arabia introduced a general tourism visa making it easier to enter the Gulf kingdom.

The senior Saudi official said the government had confirmed 577 deaths for the two busiest days of haj: Saturday, when pilgrims gathered for hours of prayers in the blazing sun on Mount Arafat, and Sunday, when they participated in the "stoning of the devil" ritual in Mina.

"This happened amid difficult weather conditions and a very harsh temperature," the official said, acknowledging that the 577 figure was partial and did not cover all of the haj, which formally ended on Wednesday.

The haj is one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims with the means must complete at least once in their lives. Saudi officials had earlier said 1.8 million pilgrims took part this year, a similar number to last year, and that 1.6 million came from abroad.

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10 Saudi Investors Fined $27 Million for Insider Trading and Other Securities Offenses


At least 10 people have been ordered to pay SAR101.7 million (£21.3 million) for committing violations, including insider trading, to make illegal gains in their investment portfolios in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom’s Appeal Committee for Resolution of Securities Disputes (ACRSD) also sentenced one of the investors to six months' imprisonment for not adhering to the Capital Market Law (CML), according to a statement on Thursday.

The total amount includes SAR670,000 in fines and SAR101 million in averted trading losses resulting from the breaches committed by the respondents, the statement, posted by the Capital Market Authority (CMA), said.

The financial regulator said offences that result in avoided losses include providing misleading information, making false statements and other unlawful practices that enable the investors to avoid actual or potential losses, influencing the security’s price or encouraging others to make a purchase.

In addition to the fines, ACRSD ordered seven of the investors to pay SAR50.4 million and another one, a woman, to pay SAR50.5 million to the CMA account. The additional charges are also for the losses the investors avoided after committing violations.

Due to the offences committed, the ACRSD banned the 10 investors from working in companies listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange for various periods, ranging from one to six years.

The ACRSD issued the ruling following joint coordination and cooperation between the CMA and relevant authorities, and considering the lawsuit filed by the Public Prosecution.

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At least 41 Workers Dead in Kuwait Building Fire, Arrest of Property Owner Ordered


$4 Million Fines Imposed on Six Saudi Companies for Competition Law Violations

The General Authority for Competition announced the imposition of fines amounting to SR14.89 million on six companies and establishments operating in the car and goods transport sector. The action was taken due to violations of the Competition Law, following their agreement to increase charges for vehicle transportation, the authority stated in a Wednesday announcement.

The decision included imposing fines as follows:

  • SR5 million on MB International Company
  • SR5 million on RT Company for Transporting Goods
  • SR1.9 million on N.B.A. Corporation
  • SR1.5 million on A.A.A.H. Company and T. Transportation Company
  • SR790,000 on S.K.S. Company
  • SR700,000 on DDN Company

The committee’s decision became final following the issuance of final rulings by the competent court, which rejected the establishments’ objections to the committee’s decision. The authority’s Board of Directors authorised an investigation into the violations committed by these firms. The violations were subsequently referred to the Committee for Adjudication of Competition Law Violations, which issued its decision to impose punitive measures on the involved companies and entities.

Investigations revealed that the firms violated Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Competition Law. This provision prohibits practices, agreements, or contracts between competing establishments, or those likely to be competitors, whether the contracts are written or oral, explicit or implicit.

These practices, agreements, or contracts aim to restrict trade or disrupt competition between establishments. Specifically, the law mentions violations involving controlling the prices of goods and services prepared for sale by increasing, decreasing, stabilising, or in any other way that harms legitimate competition.

The authority revealed that the penalties are based on its mission and powers to enforce the Competition Law, as well as its role in protecting and encouraging fair competition and combating monopolistic practices.
This action also aims to uphold the principle of transparency in procedures following violations of the Competition Law and its executive regulations by agreeing to raise prices for transporting vehicles, which is prohibited under Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Competition Law.

The General Authority for Competition called on all establishments to adhere to the Competition Law and its executive regulations and to comply with the competition guidelines. The authority also urged all establishments to review the guidelines on ways to comply with the Competition Law through the “Compliance Portal” available at: Compliance Portal via the following link

The authority aims to adopt competition-stimulating policies, combat illegal monopolistic practices, improve market performance, support consumer and business sector confidence, contribute to investment flow, and enhance sustainable development.

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Minister highlights Saudi's Emergence as Legal Hub During Graduation Ceremony

Saudi Arabia's Justice Minister, Walid Al-Samaani, presided over a ceremony marking a significant milestone: the graduation of 3,000 lawyers who successfully completed the 2024 qualification programme.

The ceremony served as a culmination of their extensive training and preparation for legal practice. Minister Al-Samaani expressed his delight in welcoming the new generation of legal professionals. He specifically highlighted their crucial role in propelling the Kingdom's ambitious goals – a legislative, institutional and digital transformation – all generously supported by King Salman bin Abdulaziz and meticulously overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In his address, the minister announced the launch of a vital initiative – "Achieving Quality in Judicial Upskilling." The initiative forms a key component of the National Transformation Programme. The programme's objectives are multifaceted: to elevate legal standards within the Kingdom, reinforce a focus on preventative justice and ultimately improve the quality of judicial services available to all.

He emphasised the significant role these graduates will play, calling them the "cornerstone of the justice system" due to their well-honed expertise and legal skills.

The minister also commended the comprehensive advancements being made at all levels of the legal system. These advancements prioritise safeguarding the rights of individuals and aligning practices with the best international standards. These efforts, he declared, have positioned the Kingdom as a leader in the global legal field.

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New Law: Kuwait Imposes Travel Ban on Expatriates Convicted of Financial Crimes


Kuwait has enacted a new law that imposes travel bans on expatriates convicted of financial crimes, according to Public Prosecutor Counsellor Saad Al Safran. This measure aims to address the growing issue of unpaid fines among foreigners, ensuring they comply with court-imposed penalties.

The decision specifies the circumstances that justify travel bans, such as judgments issued in absentia that involve fines and sentences given in absentia to individuals who were not properly notified.

It also applies to foreigners sentenced in absentia, regardless of notification status, who have filed an appeal within the designated timeframe but are still waiting for a decision. Additionally, individuals who did not file an appeal within the required 27 days from the announcement of the ruling will also face travel restrictions.

Moreover, the directive covers opposition rulings that include a fine penalty, applying to expatriates who have filed an appeal within the given timeframe, even if the appeal is still pending. Conversely, those who have failed to file an appeal within the specified 20-day period from the ruling's issuance will be subject to travel bans.

In-person judgments imposing fines also trigger travel restrictions for expatriates, including those with pending appeals and those who failed to file an appeal within the stipulated timeframe.
However, the directive clarifies that travel bans will be lifted upon full payment of imposed fines. The committee overseeing the collection of criminal fines for the state treasury will implement this decision.

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Saudi Arabia Begins Enforcement of Penalties for Performing Haj Without a Permit


The Ministry of Interior has begun enforcing penalties against those who violate Haj rules and regulations, starting from Sunday, June 2. Fines amounting to SR10,000 will be imposed on Saudi citizens, expatriates, and visitors caught entering Makkah without a Hajj permit during the period ending on Dhul Hijjah 14, corresponding to June 20.

Penalties will apply to individuals found without a Hajj permit within Makkah's holy city, the Central Haram Area, the Holy Sites of Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah, the Haramain train station in Rusayfah, security control centers, pilgrims' grouping centres, and temporary security control centres. Regardless of nationality or legal status, penalties will be imposed on those who breach the ministry's regulations and instructions.

The Ministry of Interior recently announced it will double fines for repeat violators, potentially reaching up to SR100,000. Expatriate violators will face deportation and a ban on reentering the Kingdom in accordance with specified legal periods.

Anyone caught transporting Haj regulation violators may face up to six months' imprisonment and a maximum fine of SR50,000. Penalties may also include vehicle confiscation and deportation of the transporter after serving their sentence and paying fines if they are expatriates.

Fines will escalate based on the number of violators transported. The ministry's directive aims to facilitate Haj pilgrims' rituals at the Grand Mosque in Makkah comfortably.

Seasonal administrative committees at Makkah's entry points are responsible for handling cases of illegal Haj pilgrim transportation. Field control agencies will transfer violators transporting citizens and expatriates without Haj permits to these committees, which will examine violations and issue administrative decisions and penalties.

Meanwhile, Public Security has begun enforcing Haj regulations and instructions for holders of visit visas, resulting in the arrest of over 20,000 visa holders. This is due to violations stipulating that holders of visit visas must not remain in Makkah.

Public Security emphasises that visit visas of all types do not permit Haj participation. Visitors holding any visit visa type are urged not to travel to or remain in Makkah from May 23 until Dhul-Hijjah 15, corresponding to June 21.

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UAE and Qatar Sign Agreement to Prevent Double Taxation, Income Tax Evasion


The UAE and Qatar have formalised an agreement aimed at avoiding double taxation and preventing income tax evasion. The agreement was signed by Mohamed Hadi Al Hussaini, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs, and Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Qatari Minister of Finance.

The signing took place during the 121st meeting of the GCC Financial and Economic Cooperation Committee, with several officials from both nations present.

Al Hussaini emphasised the transformative potential of the agreement, highlighting its role in enhancing financial, economic and investment partnerships between the UAE and Qatar. He noted that the agreement would improve tax coordination and cooperation, create new investment opportunities and stimulate trade. Additionally, it is expected to diversify national income sources and provide comprehensive protection for goods and services.

Al Hussaini pointed out that the agreement strengthens economic and trade relations between the two countries and offers full protection for companies and individuals against both direct and indirect double taxation.

He stated: “The UAE Ministry of Finance is dedicated to enhancing trade and investment relations with all partners by developing mechanisms that clarify the status of investors' operations in trade, economic, financial, and other activities in countries with active economic relations with the UAE.”

Al Kuwari also highlighted the agreement's significance, noting its effective role in promoting international transparency standards through the exchange of documented financial information. He emphasised that this agreement would further strengthen bilateral economic relations.

Expanding Relations

The agreement reflects the UAE’s commitment to expanding its network of international and Arab relations, enhancing economic and investment cooperation with various countries globally. It aims to protect UAE investments from non-commercial risks, facilitate the transfer of profits and returns, and regulate dispute resolution.

To date, the UAE has signed 146 agreements to avoid double taxation and 114 agreements to protect and promote investments. These agreements provide a legal framework that safeguards UAE investments worldwide.

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Al Doseri Law Wins Ruling in English-Language International Commercial Dispute in Bahrain

In a precedent-setting case, Al Doseri Law, under the leadership of founding partner Saad Al Doseri, has successfully defended its client in an $18 million international commercial dispute conducted in English.

The ruling, delivered by the Court of Cassation on May 9, 2024, marks a significant milestone for Bahrain as it upholds a previous decision by the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (BCDR). The first of its kind ruling in Bahrain emphasises the country's growing prominence as a key jurisdiction for international litigation conducted in English and governed by English law.

The case arose from a Ministry of Justice for Islamic Affairs and Waqf (MOJ) resolution permitting the use of English in BCDR disputes when the underlying contract is in English. It also requires that any challenges to such judgments be heard in English at all judicial levels.

In November 2023, the BCDR initially ruled in favour of Al Doseri Law's client. This decision was notable not only for its content but also for being conducted entirely in English. The BCDR's ruling was presided over by Judge Jan Paulsson, along with Judge Nadine Debbas Achkar and Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf.

The dispute involved a claim exceeding $18 million and was determined to be governed by English law. The BCDR tribunal concluded that the claimant's claims were time-barred under the Limitation Act 1980, which stipulates that actions founded on simple contracts must be brought within six years from the cause of action.

Al Doseri Law successfully argued that their client's communications did not constitute an acknowledgement of liability, thereby not interrupting the statutory limitation period. The Court of Cassation's decision to uphold the BCDR ruling was significant, with the tribunal led by Chief Justice Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, assisted by judges Adrian Cole and Michael Grose. The court accepted the appeal in form but dismissed it on merits, ordering the appellant to bear all costs.

Saad Al Doseri commented: “We are delighted to have successfully represented our client in this precedent-setting case. This is an excellent outcome and sets the stage for Bahrain’s commitment to hearing and ruling on complex and high-profile cases in English and governed by English law.”

The success of Al Doseri Law in this landmark case underscores its expertise in handling multi-jurisdictional and international commercial disputes. It also solidifies Bahrain’s position as a leading hub for international commercial disputes, confirming its role as a major judicial jurisdiction for disputes in English and showcasing its commitment to modernising its judicial system in line with global developments in international commercial litigation.

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Saudi Arabia: Six Months in Prison, SR50,000 Fine for Visit Visa Rule Violators


Beneficial Rules: Kuwait’s New Work Permits and Transfer Fees to be Enforced From June 1

The Public Authority for Manpower in Kuwait has announced updates to its automated system, implementing new regulations concerning work permits and transfers starting early June.

These updates entail the introduction of an additional fee of 150 dinars for issuing a work permit for the first time. Furthermore, there is a new transfer fee of 300 dinars for transferring a worker to a different company if the worker has been in the country for less than three years, provided the employer gives their approval.

Tourists, travellers and tourism businesses stand to benefit from these changes in several ways. Firstly, the updated regulations can streamline and clarify the process of obtaining work permits, making it more straightforward for businesses to bring in necessary talent from abroad.

This could enhance operational efficiency for tourism businesses that rely on international expertise.

The imposition of a transfer fee aims to reduce employee turnover, potentially leading to a more stable workforce within the tourism sector. For businesses, this means less time and resources spent on recruiting and training new staff. In turn, tourists can expect more consistent and reliable service, as experienced employees are more likely to stay with their employers longer.

The enforcement of these new fees and regulations by the Public Authority for Manpower reflects Kuwait’s commitment to maintaining a structured and regulated workforce.

This can lead to improved working conditions and better management of foreign labour, which is particularly beneficial for tourism businesses that depend on a mix of local and international staff.

Additionally, the readiness of inspection teams across all governorates to begin their activities in open areas from June 1 demonstrates the government’s proactive approach to ensuring compliance with the new regulations.

For tourists, this means a more organised and secure environment, as businesses adhering to regulations are likely to operate more transparently and effectively.

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Claims Related to Vacation and Working Hours Tops Labour Disputes in Oman

A symposium organised by the Ministry of Labour (MoL) brought together stakeholders from different sectors in Oman to discuss effective approaches for resolving labour disputes.

Titled 'Mechanisms for Settlement of Labour Disputes – Reality and Aspirations', the symposium commenced under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nasr bin Amer al Hosani, Undersecretary for Labour at MoL.

His Excellency Hosani emphasised the significance of the symposium in facilitating constructive interaction among diverse perspectives and formulating recommendations beneficial to all parties involved. He underscored that stability in the labour market is pivotal for the nation’s economic growth.

“The primary aim of the symposium is to address and enhance methods for resolving labour disputes in Oman by convening a diverse group of stakeholders. It also seeks to generate actionable recommendations to improve labour dispute resolution mechanisms, thereby fostering overall stability and productivity in the labour market,” he said.

Hussein bin Ali al Lawati, Director General of Labour Welfare, pointed out that “workers’ claims regarding vacations and working hours are the most prominent disputes”, as he underscored the challenges encountered by the ministry in achieving effective dispute settlements.

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No Exit or Legalisation for Illegal Expatriates After June 17 Deadline: Kuwait Ministry

Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior has announced that it will not allow those who violated the Residency Law to leave the country or legalise their status after June 17 — the humanitarian deadline it set for violators to leave or amend their status without paying fines.

Security sources confirmed that the ministry will intensify its campaign against the Residency Law violators once the deadline ends, indicating it will pursue those who violated the law and then deport them.

Sources pointed out that violators can amend their status through legal frameworks within the above-mentioned deadline in order to avoid being pursued by security personnel.

Sources also warned that those who will be deported during the intensified inspection campaign can no longer return to the country.

Last year, the ministry arrested and deported about 40,000 Residency Law violators; and the number of violators before the amnesty was estimated at about 120,000, sources added.

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Qatar Announces New Rule: Motorists Must Pay Traffic Violation Fines Before Leaving Country

The General Directorate of Traffic at the Qatar Ministry of Interior has announced new rules which require motorists to pay fine of traffic violations before leaving the country by land, air, and sea from September 1.

A 50 per cent discount on the value of traffic violations for all mechanical vehicles from June 1 has been also announced. As per the new rules, buses with more than 25 passengers, taxis and limousines are prohibited from using the left lane on road networks with three or more lanes in each direction.

Delivery motorcycle riders must use the right lane on all roads, with lane changes allowed at least 300 meters before intersections.

New procedures for vehicle exit permits to leave the country have been also introduced. The announcement was made in a press conference at the Directorate’s headquarters in Madina Khalifa South.

The new rules are based on The Traffic Law issued by Decree-Law No. (19) of 2007 and Decision of the Minister of Interior No. (21) of 2024 regarding the rules and procedures for issuing permits for mechanical vehicles to exit the country.

Director of Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior Brigadier Abdullah Khalifa Al Muftah said that traffic law violators will not be allowed to leave the country through any state borders (land, air and sea) without paying the fines and dues from September 1, 2024.

He said that the motorists can pay traffic violation fines through the Metrash2 application, Ministry of Interior website, traffic sections, or unified service centres.

Assistant Director of the Licensing Department at the General Directorate of Traffic Staff Colonel Ali Hassan Al Kaabi and Assistant Director of the Traffic Safety Department Major Eng Mohammed Misfer Al Hajri also attended the press conference.

Al Muftah said that a 50 per cent discount on the value of traffic violations for all mechanical vehicles will be applied from June 1, 2024 until August 31, 2024. He said that the discount includes violations recorded within no more than three years.

The General Directorate of Traffic announced that the owners of mechanical vehicles should follow these rules and procedures effective from May 22, 2024.

A permit must be obtained from the General Directorate of Traffic for mechanical vehicles to exit the country, as per the prescribed form and the following conditions: The vehicle must not have any outstanding traffic violations. The final destination (point of arrival) for the mechanical vehicle must be specified.

The applicant for the permit must be the owner of the vehicle, or present proof of the owner’s consent for the vehicle to exit the country.

The following vehicles are exempted from the requirement for a vehicle exit permit: Vehicles bound for the GCC countries (point of arrival) provided they have no traffic violations, and the driver is either the owner or has the owner’s consent and goods transporting vehicles.

Rules for Return of Vehicles with Qatari Plates

Considering the exception mentioned in the “First” above, owner of a vehicle outside the country must adhere to the following: Return the vehicles that are outside the country before applying these rules and procedures, within (90) days from the date of this announcement, unless the owner obtains a permit from the licensing authority for the vehicle to remain abroad for a specified period or periods.

Return the vehicle permitted to leave the country before the permit expires, with the possibility to renew the permit for a further period or periods.

In case of violating the aforementioned rules and procedures, legal actions will be taken, including the administrative impoundment of the vehicle for up to 90 days.

Effective from the date of this announcement, mechanical vehicles outside the country will not be allowed to renew their registration unless the vehicle undergoes a technical inspection inside the country.

If the registration is not renewed within the legal period (30 days from the expiration date), the vehicle owner must return the license plates to the General Directorate of Traffic.

Failure to return the plates will result in referring the violator to the Public Prosecution for its procedures, according to Article (95) of the mentioned Traffic Law, which stipulates imprisonment for not less than one week and not more than one year, and a fine of not less than (QR3,000) and not more than (QR10,000), or either of these penalties.

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3 Persons, Including Saudi Woman, Penalised for Commercial Cover Up in Al-Ahsa

The Court of Appeal in the Eastern Province issued a final verdict against a Saudi woman and her legal representative for enabling a Bangladeshi expatriate to engage in illegal commercial cover-up (tasattur) activity through running a car maintenance facility in the Al-Ahsa governorate.

The penalties included closing the facility and liquidating its activity, revoking its commercial register, imposing fine on the violators, and deportation of the Bangladeshi resident.

The joint inspection teams from the National Programme to Combat Commercial Concealment started implementing the punitive measures after the conviction of those involved in the illegal cover-up activity.

The court found guilty of the accused that the Bangladeshi resident was allowed to misuse the facility’s commercial registry to work for himself, manage and operate the facility, supervise its workers and transfer the funds resulting from his illegal activity to outside Saudi Arabia.

It is noteworthy that the National Programme to Combat Commercial Concealment has set 10 standards for establishments’ compliance with market rules approved by government agencies, and these are monitored continuously.

The Anti-Concealment Law stipulates the imposition of maximum jail terms of five years, fines up to SR5million and the seizure and confiscation of illicit funds earned through the illegal activity after final judicial rulings are issued against those involved in the crime.


Kuwait's Emir Dissolves National Assembly and Suspends Some Constitutional Articles


Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has issued a decree dissolving parliament and suspending some articles of the constitution for “a period not exceeding four years,” following weeks of political tension subsequent to recent elections.

“We have ordered the dissolution of the National Assembly and the suspension of certain articles of the constitution for a period not exceeding four years,” declared the Emir in a televised address on Friday evening.

“The recent turmoil in the Kuwaiti political landscape has reached a point where silence is no longer an option, thus we must undertake all necessary measures to safeguard the best interests of the country and its people.”

The Gulf nation conducted its fourth elections in as many years last month, with 39 of the 46 members from the previous parliament retaining their seats. During the suspension period of the constitutional articles, a comprehensive examination of all facets of the democratic process will be conducted, as stated by the Emir.

The authority of the National Assembly will be assumed by the Emir and the country’s cabinet, according to state TV reports.

“Kuwait has weathered some challenging times recently... which leaves no space for indecision or procrastination in making the tough decision to rescue the country and secure its paramount interests,” the Emir emphasised.

As per Kuwait’s constitution, a new government must be established within two weeks of an election. However, tensions between the elected parliament and the appointed Prime Minister since the April 4 elections have hindered such formation.

On April 15, Sheikh Meshal appointed Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al Ahmad Al Sabah as Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a new government.

Having succeeded his half-brother in December, Sheikh Meshal dissolved the previous parliament after a legislator used language deemed unconstitutional, and parliament declined to censure him. Following the speech, Kuwaiti analyst Bader Al Saif described the move as historic.

“The Emir delivered a remarkably detailed speech outlining his perspective on Kuwait’s ‘adverse reality’ – an undeniable reality given Kuwait’s consistent decline across various domains,” Al Saif remarked on X.

“He assigned responsibility to both the legislative and executive branches, enumerating in detail what he considers their transgressions.” Kuwait has been embroiled in domestic political disputes for years.

The reform of the country's welfare system has been a major point of contention, hindering the government from incurring debt.

Consequently, the government has little leeway to cover inflated public sector salaries, despite significant revenue from its oil reserves.

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Saudi Arabia Announces Stringent Penalties for Hajj Pilgrims Without Official Permit

Saudi Arabia has announced strict penalties for individuals attempting to undertake the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage without an official permit.

The Ministry of Interior has declared that enforcement will commence next month, focusing on those breaching Hajj regulations in Mecca, the Central Area, and sacred locations from June 2 to June 20.

This year's Hajj rituals are anticipated to commence around June 14, subject to the sighting of the new moon.

Residents, citizens and visitors found within the designated areas without a pilgrimage permit will incur a fine of SR10,000, with the penalty doubling upon repeated offenses. Expatriate offenders will also face deportation and a ban from re-entry into the kingdom.

Moreover, individuals aiding violators and unauthorized pilgrims could receive up to six months imprisonment and a maximum fine of SR50,000. Expatriate facilitators will be deported upon completion of their sentence.

Saudi Arabia has cautioned against fraudulent campaigns and websites targeting Muslims planning to perform Hajj, stressing the importance of official channels for securing pilgrimage access and safeguarding the rights of pilgrims.

The Ministry of Hajj has emphasised the necessity of obtaining a Hajj permit, echoing recent statements by the Council of Senior Scholars, the kingdom's highest Islamic authority, which has deemed performing Hajj without an official permit as sinful.

Hajj, one of Islam's five obligatory duties, must be undertaken at least once in a lifetime by physically and financially capable Muslims.

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Bahrain Shura Council Approves New Law to Regulate the Use of Artificial Intelligence


A new law to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has been approved in Bahrain. Under this law, individuals exploiting AI technologies to make decisions requiring human intervention or assessment may face fines of up to BD1,000.

The newly approved legislation, consisting of 38 articles, was unanimously passed by the Shura Council. Proposed by a group of five members, led by Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, Ali Al Shehabi, the law will now be drafted by the government as formal legislation and referred to Parliament within six months.

The legislative and legal affairs committee of the Shura Council recommended the law's approval after consulting with officials from various ministries and agencies, including Interior, Health, Education, Cabinet Affairs, Information, Transportation and Telecommunications, Industry and Commerce, Parliament and Shura Affairs, as well as Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments. Feedback was also sought from entities such as the National Space Science Agency, Bahrain Polytechnic, Information and eGovernment Authority, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and Tamkeen.

Committee Chairwoman Dallal Al Zayed described the review process as complex and challenging, emphasising that its implementation would mark a pioneering decision in the region.
Ali Al Shehabi emphasized the growing significance of AI in various domains and stressed the importance of regulating it to prevent potential misuse and future risks. He highlighted Bahrain's intention to integrate AI-driven services across sectors while also addressing concerns about potential criminal activities, such as tampering with voice features, biometrics, official documents, audio and video.

According to the law, individuals utilising AI technologies to make decisions requiring human intervention or assessment may face fines of up to BD1,000.

Additionally, fines of up to BD2,000 may be imposed on those programming or processing AI systems to infringe upon privacy, personal freedoms, social values, or traditions. Misusing AI for discrimination or purposes other than intended could also lead to fines of up to BD2,000.

Penalties ranging from BD2,000 to BD5,000 are stipulated for the unauthorised use of autobots or robots. Programming, processing, inserting, or developing AI systems without a licence could result in fines ranging from BD1,000 to BD10,000.

Serious offenses, such as tampering with official speeches or using AI for deception, manipulation, or malicious intent, may result in imprisonment for up to three years or fines ranging from BD5,000 to BD20,000, or both. Deliberate use of AI to incite unrest, political disturbances, sabotage, or terrorism-related activities may lead to a minimum of three years' imprisonment.

The law also holds establishments accountable for offenses committed by individuals under their employment, with repeat violations potentially resulting in permanent closure or court-determined penalties.

Regarding minors, Chairwoman Dr Fatima Al Kooheji raised concerns about the clarity of consequences and punishments, suggesting the need for awareness campaigns before enforcing the law.
In conclusion, the law establishes a framework to regulate AI use, outlining penalties for various offenses and establishing a special unit for AI oversight.

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She is Here to Assist You: Meet Sama 2.0, World's First AI-powered Cabin Crew

 Attendees of Dubai's Arabian Travel Market (ATM) will have the exciting opportunity to connect with the next generation of the world’s pioneering AI-powered cabin crew. Qatar Airways' Sama 2.0 stands ready to offer real-time assistance, personalised travel recommendations and comprehensive support to travellers, addressing queries ranging from FAQs to destination insights. Experience this innovative digital assistant firsthand during the upcoming event.

The digital human crew will participate in the Dubai World Trade Centre annual exhibition from May 6 to 9, 2024, at the Qatari Airways pavilion in Hall No.2. Qatar Airways’ patrons can engage with Sama 2.0 virtually through the airline’s immersive digital platform QVerse or its dedicated app.

Introduced at ITB Berlin earlier this year, the holographic virtual cabin crew Sama 2.0 continues to revolutionise passenger experiences.
Sama, born out of a collaboration with UneeQ, an innovative AI interface firm based in New Zealand, represents a groundbreaking leap in personalised and efficient service within the aviation industry.

“This marks a significant milestone in advancing the harmonious blend of technology and human interaction – not only for Qatar Airways but for the entire aviation sector,” remarked Babar Rahman, Vice President of Marketing at Qatar Airways.

Sama currently communicates fluently in English, with plans to incorporate Arabic and other languages later this year, catering to the airline's diverse global clientele. Qatar Airways emphasises that Sama employs generative AI powered by Synanim, UneeQ’s cutting-edge real-time animation technology, to deliver engaging conversations.

The airline recently introduced its generative AI-powered travel experience, streamlining and personalising travel planning. This innovative experience utilises immersive visual interactions and an interactive 3D map to understand and accommodate customers’ travel preferences effortlessly.

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Saudi Arabia Approves Establishing Centre for the Protection of Whistleblowers


Saudi Attorney General and Chairman of the Council of Public Prosecutions, Sheikh Saud Al-Muajab, has authorised the establishment of the Centre for the Protection of Whistleblowers, Witnesses, Experts and Victims.

This is in accordance with Article Four of the Law for the Protection of Whistleblowers, Witnesses, Experts, and Victims. This law, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on February 13, aims to ensure the safety of individuals who may face threats for providing evidence in legal proceedings.

The centre's primary objective is to offer legal protection to individuals at risk of reprisals for disclosing information related to criminal activities. The law guarantees protection from threats, dangers, or harm.

According to Article 14 of the law, individuals are entitled to various forms of protection, including security measures, confidentiality of personal information to shield their identity, temporary or permanent relocation from their workplace, assistance in finding alternative employment and access to legal, psychological and social support.

They are also provided with means to report imminent dangers, change their contact information and residence, receive security escorts or accommodations and receive financial assistance.
The centre will take necessary measures to protect entitled individuals from physical harm and ensure their health, safety and social integration throughout the protection period, respecting their rights and freedoms while imposing only necessary restrictions as per legal provisions.

Protected individuals can request protection following specific procedures and terms outlined in the law. Protection can also be granted without consent if potential imminent danger is identified.
The law establishes criminal penalties, including up to three years' imprisonment and fines up to SR5 million, for offenses against protected individuals.

Judicial authorities are empowered by the law to provide necessary protection to witnesses, victims, whistleblowers, experts, and their families against threats such as assault, retaliation, intimidation, and others.

The law encourages and facilitates information sharing to combat crime while safeguarding informants, witnesses, experts, and victims from attacks, threats, or any actions that may impede the delivery of such information. The law will become effective 120 days after its publication in the Official Umm Al-Qura Gazette on Shaban 20, corresponding to March 1, 2024.

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EU Introduces Five-year Schengen Visas for Citizens of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain

The European Union has introduced five-year Schengen visas for citizens of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, allowing them multiple visits to the bloc during this period.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced this during the inaugural session of the first high-level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation between the EU and the GCC in Luxembourg.

"I am pleased to announce a decision by the European Commission this morning to standardise rules for issuing multiple-entry visas to citizens of GCC countries," Borrell stated.

These visa regulations apply uniformly to all GCC countries whose citizens require permits to enter the Schengen Area, marking a significant stride in EU-Gulf relations.

UAE citizens enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for stays of up to three months, whereas Qataris must apply for visas.

In 2022, the EU unveiled plans for visa-free travel for Kuwaitis and Qataris.
Subsequently, a new visa regime was introduced last September specifically for Kuwaitis, featuring a "cascade" system enabling eligible applicants, including first-time travelers, to secure five-year permits.

The Schengen Area, encompassing 29 European countries, expanded in February to include Bulgaria and Romania, effectively abolishing air and maritime border controls.

Additionally, citizens from the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia are exempt from pre-entry visa requirements for the UK.

In November, Gulf countries revealed intentions to implement a unified tourist visa akin to the Schengen permit, aimed at streamlining travel for residents and tourists.

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GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre Implements Major Protocols

In a significant move towards enhancing its operational framework, the GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre has unveiled pioneering measures, as announced by Dr Kamal Al Hamad, the Centre's Secretary-General.

Among these advancements is a mandate for applicants to electronically register on the Centre's website and submit all requisite documentation.

These submissions should include academic certificates, evidence of a minimum of 10 years of practical experience for arbitrators and seven years for experts in their respective fields and completion of specialised programmes such as the International Fellowship Programme in Arbitration and the Arbitrators Qualification Programme.

Additionally, arbitrators must demonstrate issuance of at least five institutional arbitration awards, while experts must provide three expert reports within their area of expertise.

Strategic Implementation

Furthermore, applicants are required to provide a university endorsement validating their certificates, attest to the authenticity of their submitted documents and furnish additional evidence reflecting the Centre's alignment with contemporary international commercial arbitration standards.

This meticulous process is integral to the Centre's strategic vision to rank among the world's foremost commercial arbitration entities.

Dr Al-Hamad emphasized the imperative for arbitrators and experts affiliated with the GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre to possess a comprehensive skill set and professional attributes.

These attributes encompass a robust understanding of legal principles, adept analytical prowess, effective communication skills, proficiency in navigating complex scenarios, impartiality and a profound grasp of arbitration principles alongside pertinent legal frameworks governing the disputes under consideration.

Dr Al-Hamad noted that the Centre recently declined over 60 applications for failing to meet these stringent criteria.

"We consider these exacting standards as essential to safeguarding the reputation and enduring success of the GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre," Dr Al-Hamad emphasised.

"The arbitrators and experts we designate play a central role in solidifying our position as a premier institution in commercial arbitration.

Their possession of requisite professional skills, experience, qualifications, and licensure reflects the efficiency and caliber of the services we provide."

Dr Al-Hamad accentuated the role of arbitrators and experts as impartial mediators tasked with facilitating dispute resolution outside the conventional judicial framework.

To excel in this capacity, arbitrators must possess the ability to attentively listen to the arguments presented by involved parties, objectively assess evidence, and deliver prompt, reliable, and equitable decisions.

Moreover, he affirmed the Centre's extensive pool of arbitrators and experts, each specialising in diverse case types.

These professionals undergo continuous evaluation across various domains pertinent to the Centre's operations and the delivery of high-quality arbitration services.

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Saudi Labour Disputes to Proceed to Court if Settlement Not Reached in 21 Working Days


Labour disputes that cannot be settled amicably within 21 working days will be referred to court, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD).

The ministry highlighted its electronic 'Friendly Settlement' service for resolving labour disputes between workers and employers. In the initial phase of processing electronically filed labour dispute petitions, this service aims to facilitate a resolution. If no settlement is reached within 21 days of the first session, labour offices will electronically transfer the case to labour courts.

Under this system, efforts are made to reconcile differing viewpoints through mediation, seeking an amicable solution that satisfies both parties whenever possible. If no resolution is achieved within 21 working days from the first session, the case will be automatically referred to the labour court.

The ministry has streamlined its friendly settlement services on its official website, allowing for electronic case submission and formalisation. The system also enables plaintiffs and defendants to access case details before the hearing session.

Additionally, remote reconciliation sessions can be conducted, ensuring high governance standards and eliminating human interference in scheduling appointments.

The ministry's Friendly Settlement unit specialises in handling labour disputes related to employment contracts, wages, rights, work injuries, compensation, terminations and disciplinary actions against workers.

Lawsuits for friendly settlement can be initiated through the ministry's unified application or website, requiring proof of identity, nationality, residency, or passport, along with evidence of the contractual relationship from the plaintiff (worker/employer).

This service is available at the labour office within the jurisdiction of the workplace and the relevant settlement office. Lawsuits must be acknowledged and verified for non-malicious intent.

Notifications via text messages and emails are sent to all involved parties upon acceptance of the lawsuit. Details regarding the hearing date are also communicated through these channels.

If the plaintiff fails to attend, the case will be set aside with the option to reopen it within 21 working days. If the defendant misses the initial session, their ministry services will be suspended, and a new session will be scheduled.

Repeated absences by the defendant allow the worker to change employers without the current employer's consent, and the case will proceed to the labour courts.

In cases where a settlement is reached, a settlement agreement will be drafted and made available for printing through the claims service. If no agreement is reached after the second session, the lawsuit is transferred to the labour courts, with session dates determined later by the Ministry of Justice.

The lawsuit is considered closed within the friendly settlement unit, and clients can print and submit reports through the Najiz system at the Ministry of Justice.

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Bahrain Set to Introduce Comprehensive Labour Accommodation Regulations

New rules governing labour accommodations are set to be introduced, according to Bahrain’s Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan. A newly-proposed article will be added to the 2012 Private Sector Employment Law, obliging employers who provide staff accommodation to declare their whereabouts and allow inspections to ensure standards are met.

These amendments, currently under review by the Ministerial Committee for Legal Affairs, will establish accommodation standards in coordination with the Bahrain Chamber and trade unions.

Minister Humaidan also mentioned that specific locations for labour camps outside urban areas will soon be determined through a ministerial decision, in collaboration with other relevant authorities. Each worker should have a minimum of four square metres of space within one room, ensuring proper ventilation, lighting, storage and essential facilities such as fire equipment, first-aid kits and acceptable sanitary amenities.

In response to concerns raised by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security Committee vice-chairwoman Dr Mariam Al Dhaen regarding residential saturation in areas like Isa Town due to a large expatriate labour force, Minister Humaidan emphasised the need for urgent measures to address community issues caused by irresponsible labour practices.

Regarding runaway expat workers, Minister Humaidan reported that out of 562,593 work permits issued from December 2022 to February 2024, 1,337 individuals violated their employment terms.

In other news, after a decade of delays, tenders will finally be issued for the redevelopment of Jidhafs Central Market. The project will include urban enhancements, direct outlets and designated sections for fish, meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables and local products, along with essential services like a traditional coffee shop, security offices and management facilities.

This initiative follows extensive coordination among authorities, aiming to address community concerns about illegal trading, traffic congestion and related issues in the market area.

Lastly, during a parliamentary session, MPs unanimously approved an urgent proposal to establish car parks for Radhi Haddad Mosque in Janabiya, demonstrating their commitment to addressing community needs and concerns.

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Navigating Legal Evolution: A Comprehensive Guide to Developing Law in Kuwait

Kuwait, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is at a pivotal juncture where tradition converges with modernity. As the nation progresses, its legal framework must also evolve to align with the demands of a dynamic society.

Developing law in Kuwait is a multifaceted endeavour that blends tradition with innovation and harmonises local values with global standards. This article delves into the process of legal development in Kuwait and provide insights into navigating this complex landscape.

Understanding Kuwait's Legal System

Before exploring legal development, it's essential to grasp the foundations of Kuwait’s legal system. Kuwait follows a civil law system heavily influenced by Islamic law (Sharia).

The Constitution of Kuwait serves as the supreme law, defining the framework of governance and fundamental rights. Kuwait has a dual court system comprising civil courts and Sharia courts, each with jurisdiction over specific matters.

Factors Driving Legal Evolution

Several factors contribute to the evolution of law in Kuwait. The society is diverse, with a blend of traditional values and modern aspirations.

Social changes such as urbanisation, globalisation, and demographic shifts influence legal needs and expectations.

Economic growth, driven by oil reserves and diversification efforts, necessitates legal frameworks to regulate commerce, investment, and employment. As a member of the United Nations and signatory to various international treaties, Kuwait is committed to aligning its legal framework with international standards.

Addressing Contemporary Challenges

The digital revolution has transformed governance and law. Developing laws to address cybercrime, data protection, and e-commerce is imperative in the digital age.

Developing law in Kuwait requires a systematic approach that balances legal tradition with contemporary needs. It begins with thorough research and consultation with experts, stakeholders, and the public to understand societal needs and concerns.

Drafting new laws or amending existing ones involves careful consideration of constitutional principles, international norms, and societal expectations to ensure clarity, coherence, and enforceability.

Role of the National Assembly

Kuwait’s National Assembly plays a pivotal role in the legislative process. Proposed laws undergo review and debate, allowing elected representatives to scrutinize and refine legal provisions.

Engaging the public enhances transparency and legitimacy through consultations, hearings and feedback mechanisms.

Investing in Legal Education and Capacity Building

Developing a robust legal framework requires investing in legal education and capacity building. Training programmes for lawmakers, judges, lawyers and legal professionals ensure a competent workforce capable of interpreting and applying the law effectively.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite progress, Kuwait faces challenges like bureaucratic inefficiencies and judicial backlog, presenting opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and reform.

Embracing change, fostering dialogue, and upholding the rule of law are essential for navigating legal development while safeguarding Kuwait’s values and aspirations.

By adopting a strategic approach and collective effort, Kuwait can continue to evolve its legal framework to meet the evolving needs of its people and the demands of the modern world.

(The writer is a law associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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Saudi Arabia Introduces Health-based Marriage Regulations to Combat Genetic Diseases

Saudi Arabia has introduced new health-based marriage regulations aimed at preventing genetic diseases and promoting the well-being of future generations.

The amendments to Resolution 156 govern marriages involving Saudi nationals and non-Saudi individuals, prohibiting unions deemed "medically incompatible" under the guidelines of the "Healthy Marriage Programme."

The updated regulations specify that marriages can proceed if it is medically established, according to Ministry of Health protocols, that one partner is incapable of reproduction. Additionally, the Ministry of Health, under Cabinet decision No. 110, will identify the list of diseases subject to screening in the Healthy Marriage Programme for the public interest.

These changes are a significant advancement in preventing genetic disorders, ensuring treatment for affected individuals, and addressing related health concerns. The initiative is critical for fostering families free from prevalent hereditary blood disorders and serious infectious diseases in the Kingdom, while also promoting health awareness among prospective couples.

"Medical incompatibility," as defined by the Ministry of Health within the Healthy Marriage Programme, occurs when both parties are affected by or carriers of listed genetic diseases for screening, or when one party is affected and the other is a suspected carrier of a genetic disease.

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Saudi Market Manipulators Slapped with $12.32 Million in Fines and Repayments

The Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) has slapped hefty penalties totaling SR45.9 million on five investors for market manipulation and fraudulent practices.

The Appeal Committee for Resolution of Securities Disputes (ACRSD) has taken the decisive action against the five investors for engaging in illegal market practices. Fines totalling SR3.5 million have been levied against the investors for violations of the Capital Market Law and its regulations.

Additionally, four investors and a local company are ordered to repay SR41.4 million in illicit gains obtained through their investment portfolios.

The culprits manipulated the market and misled shareholders around the listing of Watani Iron Steel Co., thereby unlawfully inflating their share ownership without proper disclosure. One investor further used WhatsApp to manipulate the company's share price for personal gain.

The convicted include Abdulkarim Alrajhi and family, who were found guilty of not disclosing their increased shareholdings in Watani Iron Steel Co. Riyadh bin Sulaiman bin Omar Alkhorashi was convicted of using social media to influence share prices and profit from these manipulative activities.

In response to these breaches, a comprehensive penalty including monetary fines and mandatory repayments of illegal gains was imposed. The CMA reaffirms its commitment to maintaining a secure and transparent investment environment, emphasising severe repercussions for those engaging in fraudulent or manipulative activities in the capital market.

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Saudi to Cover Government Fees for Displaced Expats from Neighbouring Countries

Saudi Arabia will cover government fees for displaced expatriates from neighbouring countries permitted to rectify their status within the Kingdom for four years.

The decision was made during the weekly session of the Council of Ministers chaired by Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Tuesday.

The exemption includes residency permit (iqama) fees, work permit fees, transfer of service fees, profession change fees and fees for private sector employees, applicable for four years from their status rectification upon arrival.

Moreover, the state will cover previously incurred fees and fines related to residency law violations for both individuals and their companions.

Following the session, Minister of Media Salman Al-Dosary stated the Cabinet's decision to amend the Traffic Law. The Ministry of Education was tasked with applying provisions from the Municipal Real Estate Regulation concerning real estate investment deeds.

At the session's outset, the Crown Prince expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia's successful hosting of millions of Umrah pilgrims during Ramadan, attributing this success to divine grace and King Salman's leadership. He praised government agencies' efforts in serving pilgrims.

The Crown Prince briefed the Cabinet on a message from the Ethiopian prime minister, focusing on bilateral relations and cooperation.

The Cabinet discussed enhancing cooperation with various countries and organisations for regional stability, prosperity and sustainable development.

It applauded the launch of the Vision for Regional Security of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Saudi Arabia's selection to chair the 69th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2025.

Domestically, the Cabinet reviewed outcomes from the governors' annual meeting, emphasising comprehensive development and improved services for citizens and expatriates.

It noted successful job creation and training initiatives, resulting in a record-low national unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent for Saudi citizens in Q4 2023.

The Cabinet reaffirmed the commitment to preserving historical sites to achieve Vision 2030 goals and praised completion of a project supporting 56 buildings in the Historic Jeddah Neighbourhood.

Approvals included memoranda of understanding (MoUs) for political consultations, economic cooperation agreements and agreements in various fields with countries like San Marino, Serbia, Barbados, Mali and Bahrain.

Additionally, the Cabinet authorised discussions and signings of MoUs in combating terrorism, seawater desalination, and cooperation in public policy and nuclear safety and radiation protection with organisations and countries such as Pakistan, South Korea, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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Kuwait Leads Initiative, Unified GCC Biometric Fingerprint Linkage on the Anvil

As Kuwait moves forward with the implementation of mandatory biometric fingerprinting for both its citizens and expatriates, a collaborative initiative is unfolding among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to establish a unified fingerprint system, as reported by a Kuwaiti newspaper.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has set a three-month deadline, commencing on March 1, for the mandatory biometric fingerprinting process. Failure to comply will result in restricted access to ministry services, including residency permit (iqama) renewals and driver's licence procedures.

Reportedly, approximately 1.7 million individuals in Kuwait, out of its population of 4.8 million, primarily comprising expatriates, have already undergone biometric fingerprinting, according to informed sources cited by a newspaper.

"The accelerated implementation of fingerprinting in Kuwait and the establishment of a three-month deadline resulted from coordinated efforts among the Gulf countries," stated the sources, though specifics were not provided.

Some nations have advocated for expeditious security linkage implementation and data exchange. Completion of this process is expected to automatically address issues related to dual nationality.

"The establishment of a biometric fingerprint database will significantly enhance security cooperation with other countries, including Interpol, Arab states, and particularly the Gulf nations," remarked the sources.

They further elaborated that this initiative would facilitate the identification of individuals wanted in security cases and curb attempts by individuals using forged passports to enter Kuwait.

Collaborative efforts are underway among GCC countries to resolve challenges associated with dual nationality, which impose financial and social burdens. Biometric fingerprinting data will aid in identifying dual nationality holders who may utilize various identity documents while traveling.

"Biometric fingerprinting will establish an official identity reference database, a requirement for entry and departure in numerous countries," concluded the sources.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry affirmed that personnel are actively conducting biometric fingerprinting procedures for Kuwaitis, other GCC nationals, and expatriates at Kuwait's border points, including the Kuwait International Airport and designated centers nationwide.

In addition to Kuwait, the GCC comprises the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.

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Saudi Ministry Penalises Firms Organising Lottery Retail Prize Draws to Promote Sales

The Saudi Ministry of Commerce has initiated punitive measures against several commercial establishments and individuals found organising lottery retail prize draws for commercial goods.

These draws required consumers to make purchases as a prerequisite to participating in the contest. The ministry has summoned the offending commercial entities and individuals to undergo legal proceedings before referring their cases to the Public Prosecution.

The ministry has emphasised that commercial establishments and individuals must refrain from coercing consumers into making purchases as a condition for participating in contests, offers and raffles organised by them. This includes practices such as placing contest vouchers within items or inflating the price of goods during contests.

It has underscored that any form of payment or requirement for consumers to make purchases in exchange for participation in contests constitutes lottery activity, which is strictly prohibited under the Kingdom's regulations.

Lottery prizes that hinge on purchasing goods or products in exchange for cash prizes, entry into prize draws, or the inclusion of cash within products offered for sale to consumers are expressly forbidden in the Kingdom.

According to the Anti-Commercial Fraud Law and its Executive Regulations, requiring purchases in commercial competitions as a condition for participation is prohibited. Furthermore, competitions must adhere to the principles of Shariah law and customs observed in the Kingdom.

The ministry has declared its commitment to ramping up monitoring efforts to ensure that commercial establishments and advertisers licensed by the General Authority for Media Regulation comply with the regulations for organising commercial competitions as outlined in the Anti-Commercial Fraud Law and its Executive Regulations.

It has also mandated that no commercial contests be organised or advertised without obtaining the necessary licence.

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Bahrain Approves Pension Law Revisions, Extending Benefits for Military Personnel

Children of deceased civil servants, private sector employees and military personnel could now receive their monthly pensions for an extended period.

MPs unanimously approved amendments to the 1975 Civil Servants Pension Law, 1976 Social Insurance Law and 1976 Military Pension Law, proposed by a group of five MPs led by Strategic Thinking Bloc spokesman Khalid Bu Onk.

The legislators aim to raise the age limit for such beneficiaries, allowing regular pensions to be disbursed to children until they reach 24 years old, rather than the current age of 22.

For those pursuing higher education, pensions would be extended until the age of 28, with payments ceasing upon completion of studies before reaching the designated age limit.

The proposed amendments have faced objections from the Social Insurance Organisation (SIO), citing contradictions with the concepts of work and retirement. Similarly, the Military Pension Fund has raised concerns, calling for a more thorough study.

Nevertheless, the Al Hekma Retired Society has endorsed Parliament's proposed amendments, deeming them equitable.
A suggestion has been made for additional funding for these payments to be sourced from the Unemployment or Future Generations Funds.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has requested a reconsideration of a parliamentary proposal to restrict relevant job positions at ministries and government bodies to expatriates holding a Master’s Degree and possessing 10 years of work experience.

A letter outlining proposed amendments to the 2010 Civil Service Law, presented by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, has been forwarded to the services committee for review.

Under the proposed amendment, the Civil Service Commission would only offer a two-year contract, renewable once, to those meeting the specified criteria. Additionally, they would be required to train a predetermined number of Bahraini nationals as part of the agreement.

Another letter and amendment to the 1976 Social Insurance Law, aimed at altering pension calculations, adjusting retirement eligibility periods and reducing workers’ contributions from seven per cent to six per cent, have also been referred to the same committee.

Furthermore, an amendment to the 2013 Real Estate Registration Law proposing exemptions for nationals from registration or transfer fees has been sent to the public utilities and environment affairs committee. The government has expressed concerns over such exemptions, citing potential significant revenue reductions.

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Qatar: Shura Council Reviews Draft Law Amending Some Provisions of Penal Code

The Shura Council convened its regular weekly session at the Tamim bin Hamad Hall yesterday, chaired by Speaker of the Council H.E. Hassan bin Abdullah Al Ghanim.

During the meeting, the council scrutinised a draft law proposing amendments to certain provisions of the Penal Code as stipulated in Law No. 11 of 2004, which had been referred to it by the esteemed government.

The Council resolved to delegate the examination of the draft law to the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee for thorough review and the subsequent submission of a report to the Council.

Additionally, the Council endorsed a draft law aimed at repealing Law No. 2 of 1991, which imposed fees for obtaining certificates issued by the Ministry of Interior and its affiliated agencies, and Law No. 7 of 1991, which imposed similar fees for certificates issued by the Ministry of Defense.

This decision followed a comprehensive review of the report provided by the Internal and External Affairs Committee.

Furthermore, the Shura Council assessed the report detailing its delegation's involvement in a roundtable discussion on the Arab Declaration for Combating all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls, conducted via video conference last December.

Lastly, the Council reviewed the participation of its delegation in the 51st Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) Bureau Meeting, also held through video conferencing in December.

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Regulation to Suspend Government Services Comes into Force in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has implemented the Regulation to Suspend Government Services, coinciding with the beginning of the sacred month of Ramadan.

The regulation is aimed at minimising any adverse effects on individuals and businesses resulting from the suspension of government services. It includes provisions designed to safeguard the rights of all parties involved and promote compliance and adherence.

Implementation of the regulation follows specific guidelines and procedures outlined on government agency platforms such as the Absher Individuals and Businesses platform and the Muqeem portal.

According to the regulation, government services can only be suspended after a grace period is provided for rectifying any violations.

Furthermore, services related to healthcare, education, employment, commercial registration, or documentation cannot be suspended in a manner that harms the beneficiary or their dependents. Suspension of services is contingent upon the presentation of a legal document after the grace period has elapsed.

The regulation outlines a three-phase approach to the suspension of services, each phase having a designated timeframe. The initial two phases span 15 days each, with the possibility of a 15-day extension.

The duration of the third phase is determined by the statutory document for suspension submitted by the requesting government authority. If the reason for service suspension is rectified, the relevant government entity must lift the suspension within 24 hours.

Provisions within the regulation empower individuals and businesses to request an extension of the grace period before service suspension and to be informed of the entity responsible for the suspension of services.

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Nod for State Information and Documents Protection Law Amendment in Bahrain


Employees in entities where the state owns more than 50 per cent of the capital, or contributes to its management, are now officially considered civil servants. The Shura Council members unanimously voted in favour of Royal Decree 14/2023, which amends the 2014 State Information and Documents Protection Law, during their session yesterday.

The purpose of this amendment is to strengthen the protection of state information and documents. Last Tuesday, Members of Parliament also unanimously approved the decree during their weekly session. The decree, issued in September of the previous year, was prompted by an urgent request from the Cabinet.

According to the decree, individuals deemed responsible must safeguard documents, ensuring they are protected against tampering, loss, or damage, and must refrain from disclosing information to external parties. Additionally, all electronically stored information and documents must have copies saved in a national data center offering secure cloud storage services. Furthermore, all national databases will be interconnected with this center, enabling immediate updates to information and documents.

Dr Ali Al Rumaihi, Chairman of the Shura Council's Foreign Affairs, Defense, and National Security Committee, emphasised that broadening the scope of responsibility would enhance information and document protection. "We are in a time where every precaution must be taken, given the escalating cyberthreats and cybercrimes," he said.

"The level of responsibility has increased significantly, with officials in state-owned enterprises now included to ensure enhanced security," he added.

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Oman Launches First Government-owned, Dedicated Corporate Investment Bank

Following licensing by the Central Bank of Oman and the Capital Market Authority, the Sultanate of Oman has launched the government-owned Oman Investment Bank SAOC as the country’s first dedicated corporate investment bank.

Headquartered at Dana House in Muscat’s Al Khuwair district, Oman Investment Bank was established to support the strategic goals and ambitions of the Sultanate of Oman and wholesale corporate and investor clients regionally and across Oman Investment Bank’s target markets.

The bank will provide a spectrum of financial services, spanning from corporate finance advisory to the enhancement of domestic and regional securities markets.

In the lead-up to the bank’s launch, His Excellency Abdulsalam bin Mohammed Al Murshidi, Chairman of Oman Investment Bank, said that the bank is now poised to play a vital role in supporting the Omani Government’s implementation of the Oman Vision 2040 strategy, which prioritises the development of a more agile, diversified, sustainable, and competitive economy.

He added that with the launch of the bank, the Sultanate now possesses most of the tools required to encourage investment in projects being developed in Oman.

The launch of Oman Investment Bank follows the establishment of Oman Future Fund, which was launched earlier this year.
With a vision to grow over the coming years, the bank’s focus will include the provision of a full suite of strategic advisory and capital markets products to listed and unlisted corporates in Oman, in the broader GCC region, and internationally.

Key business sectors will include Energy & Power, Industrials & Minerals, Consumer & Agriculture, Financial & Asset Management, and Real Estate, Infrastructure & Technology/Media/Telecommunications and any other strategic sectors targeted by the Sultanate.

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Amazon Pays $1.9m to Workers in Saudi Arabia over Illicit Recruitment Fees

Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth, has disbursed $1.9 million to more than 700 employees in Saudi Arabia, compensating them for illicit recruitment fees and other transgressions.

The disbursement follows investigations revealing irregularities in the hiring practices of workers engaged by third-party vendors supporting Amazon's operations in the kingdom, according to a company statement.

In October of the previous year, Amnesty International shed light on the predicament of warehouse employees in Saudi Arabia associated with Amazon. The report outlined how these workers were misled by recruitment agents, deprived of rightful earnings, subjected to abysmal living conditions, and impeded from seeking alternative employment or leaving the country.

"Many of them were highly likely victims of human trafficking," the group asserted.

Responding to these allegations, Amazon enlisted the services of Verité, an independent labor rights expert, to conduct a targeted assessment of migrant worker issues and probe into recruitment practices at two Saudi facilities.

The investigation encompassed interviews with workers contracted through a licensed temporary labour agency, Abdullah Fahad Al-Mutairi Co (AFMCO).

"Verité's findings uncovered breaches of our Supply Chain Standards, including workers bearing recruitment costs to secure employment with AFMCO, inadequate living conditions, discrepancies in contracts and wages, and delays in resolving worker grievances," Amazon stated.

Amazon acknowledged that the labour agency has already taken steps to rectify the most pressing concerns, notably enhancing worker accommodations to meet company standards. Upgrades to living quarters, provision of lockers for personal belongings, and limitations on room occupancy were among the improvements cited.

Subsequent investigations by Amazon scrutinised the practices of all other third-party vendors across Saudi Arabia.

"We identified instances where contracted workers were compelled to cover expenses, including recruitment fees and other costs, to obtain employment—contravening our supply chain standards," the company disclosed.

In response to these findings, Amazon collaborated with human rights specialist Impactt Ltd to calculate reimbursement amounts for affected workers. The assessment factored in reported payments by workers, historical exchange rate fluctuations, compounded inflation, and interest.

 "As a result of this collaborative effort, Amazon disbursed $1.9 million in reimbursements to over 700 contracted workers," the company confirmed.

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Top UAE Bank Stops 'Salary in Advance' Service; Will it Hit Ramadan Festivities?

Dubai Islamic Bank, the largest Shariah-compliant lender in the UAE, has opted to discontinue its popular 'Salary in Advance' service for customers. The decision, as conveyed in a statement, follows a comprehensive assessment of the bank's financial offerings, with an active exploration of alternative solutions underway.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, the Dubai-based bank emphasised the careful consideration and thorough evaluation undertaken regarding its financial product portfolio. While acknowledging the significance of the ‘Salary in Advance’ facility to certain customers, the bank expressed its commitment to finding alternative avenues to support their financial well-being.

Notably, several other local banks also provide similar services, making DIB's 'Salary in Advance' option a popular choice among residents seeking to alleviate financial strains. Many UAE residents rely on this facility during periods of financial difficulty or for urgent personal requirements.

Reaffirming its dedication to offering innovative financial solutions tailored to customers' evolving needs, the bank highlighted its ongoing efforts to assess and align its products and services with strategic objectives and regulatory standards.

The bank expressed appreciation for its customers' understanding during this transition period and pledged to keep them informed of any developments. Despite discontinuing the 'Salary in Advance' service, the bank said it remains focused on delivering optimal service and maintaining transparency with its clientele.

The bank reported exceptional performance in the previous year, achieving its highest profitability in history. Dubai Islamic Bank Group disclosed a net profit of Dh7 billion for 2023, marking a 26 per cent increase compared to the preceding year, primarily attributed to heightened non-funded income and reduced impairment charges.

7 Banks Continue to Offer Advance

Currently, several banks in the UAE offer advance salary service, catering to their customers’ emergency needs such as hospital bills, credit card payments, or unforeseen expenses. The service provides a significant relief for individuals facing urgent financial situations, often preferring it over borrowing from acquaintances.

To access this benefit, bank customers can seamlessly have their salaries credited in advance upon approval. This can be done with just a click through the bank’s portal, ATMs, customer service centre, or by visiting a branch. However, it's essential to note that each bank sets its own conditions and eligibility criteria, which employees should review before applying.

Some banks require customers not to transfer their salary to another bank while utilising the 'Salary in Advance' facility. Yet, others permit it under specific documentation submission. Additionally, some banks offer instant cash through a salary overdraft facility, providing a revolving credit option linked to their salary account.

Banks Currently Providing Advance Salary Services

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB): Customers can access up to 50 per cent of their salary on a Murabaha basis before payday, with competitive profit rates and zero processing fees.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB): Offers salary advance against a one-time processing fee, providing instant access to cash up to 2.5 times the salary, with documentation required.

Ras Al Khaimah Bank: Provides salary advance at a set cost for registered RAKdirect customers with a monthly salary transfer to their RAKislamic Account.

United Arab Bank: Offers salary advance under the Islamic concept of Qard Al Hasan, with no interest, low fixed monthly fees, and a revolving overdraft facility.

Ajman Bank: Shariah-compliant bank offering temporary salary advance facility for salaried individuals with a minimum salary requirement, subject to terms and conditions.

Sharjah Islamic Bank: Provides salary advance options through digital platforms, ATMs, and service centers, with a processing fee upon availing the service.

Emirates NBD: Offers overdraft facility providing up to twice the salary amount, accessible via various channels with a minimum net income requirement and associated interest charges.

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Cats, Dogs and Olive: The Bizarre Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

"Till death do us part" – all marriages begin with this vow, yet many eventually part ways due to indifference and incompatibility between partners.
But have you heard about pets being the reason for divorce? Yes, pets have become a major cause of divorce in Kuwait.

According to reports, in 2023 alone, 40 cases of divorce among Kuwaiti couples were attributed to disputes arising from the care and attention given to cats and dogs within the household.
Cats and dogs are often the main instigators; partners feel that their spouses are more caring and affectionate towards the pets than towards their own family.

As pets become integral parts of the family, it's not easy to separate from them as individuals become psychologically attached to them. In one peculiar case, a husband contended that his partner's focus on the dog deprived him of the attention and care he deserved. In court, he lamented, "She should prioritise taking care of me over the dog that consumes all her attention."

The issue isn't limited to dogs; disputes over cats also arise, with some issuing ultimatums like, "It's either me or the cat." These disagreements often reach a deadlock, as neither side is willing to compromise on their pet-care practices.

However, this is not the only bizarre reason for divorce in Kuwait. Recently, a Kuwaiti man filed for divorce due to his wife’s obsession with olives. Yes, you heard it right – olives.

According to media reports, the husband's grievance revolves around his wife's fondness for olives, a preference he finds intolerable due to his aversion to the fruit's smell. Despite his efforts to address the issue with his wife and explain his discomfort, their differences persisted. Allegedly, the wife's refusal to compromise on her love for olives prompted the husband to file a lawsuit seeking damages for the purported harm caused by her culinary choices.

The list doesn’t end here; couples have their reasons to part ways, ranging from random pet peeves to food choices or daunting habits.

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