MUSCAT, DEC 7 – In a further boost for transparency in Oman’s financial sector, the Oman Credit and Financial Information Centre (Mala’a) will have a significant role in combatting money laundering and other transactions of a suspicious nature as part of its mandate as the Sultanate’s national databank. According to a top official of the newly inaugurated outfit, a new electronic Know Your Customer (KYC) system will also be introduced in support of this goal. “Yes, the Centre will contribute greatly to the transparency of financial information, which will ultimately contribute to combatting money laundering,” said Aadil al Saadi, Managing Director, Oman Credit and Financial Information Centre (Mala’a).
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the formal unveiling of the centre’s new brand ‘Mala’a’ last week, Al Saadi said the national objective of tackling money laundering and suspicious financial activity is an integral part of the Centre’s remit. He explained: “Anti-money laundering efforts, whether involving departments in the banking sector or forums for the regulations or checks of the kind that the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) is conducting, are all related to financial transactions. The legal framework of the Centre defines the scope of information to cover multiple sectors and whether — it’s a banking transaction or a credit transaction or a loan or a guarantee or collateral — at the end of the day, would be related to an individual or a corporate. The way the database of the Centre is designed is such that every record is related to a subject, for which they need an ID. Sometimes for enterprises, such as special clubs, mosques, and so on, we create a bureau ID for them.”
Adding to these measures to deter money laundering is the proposed introduction of a new Electronic KYC system — a process by which banks and financial institutions obtain information about the identity and address of their customers. “This (KYC) database was (hitherto) limited only to the banking and financial sector, but will now be expanded to include the three SME funds, the telecom and insurance sectors, and integrated with multiple public registries as well. We now have a national databank that gets updated on a daily basis, updating national KYC data. That’s the strongest foundation you can build to combat any suspicious or money-laundering transaction,” he stated.
Asked about Mala’a’s role in facilitating the exchange of cross-border credit information, he said the legal framework governing the operation of the databank, as set out in the bylaw supporting Royal Decree 38/2019, stipulates the legal grounds for the Centre to engage in bilateral agreements with peer credit bureaus and databanks in the region and internationally.
At the GCC level, the leaders of the Gulf States have already signed an agreement to support the exchange of credit information, with two countries — Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — having already implemented the pact.
Cross border exchange of credit information is conducted in two ways, Al Saadi explained. “One is the classical way — where you have an integration layer in-between with credit bureaus exchanging data electronically.
The other — more modern and sophisticated way — is to use a ‘Credit Passport’ — which can be a mobile app installed on your phone with a public and private (encryption) key.
The public key is issued by Mala’a and the private key is shared with the bureau (in the country in which you wish to share your credit information with) based on a legal bilateral agreement. All of the information is encrypted — and the information is shared only when you reach (your intended destination).”