Sunday, 3 April 2011

Qatar Financial Centre

Like Dubai, Qatar has established a financial centre with its own legal system which is called the Qatar Financial Centre ("QFC"). The Centre has its own constitution, primary and secondary legislation and institutions including a Civil and Commercial Court that is distinct and separate from, and independent of, all other Qatari courts.

The QFC Constitution
The CFC is established by Law No. 7 of 2005 ("the QFC Law") which was signed by the Emir of Qatar on 9 March 2005 and came into force on 1 May of that year. Art 2 (1) of the QFC Law provides for a business and financial centre to be located initially in Doha. It is possible under art 2 (3) for businesses located elsewhere in Qatar to be treated as though they were operating in the Centre provided that they undertake to relocate to the Centre. Art 3 (1) provides for the QFC to be governed by a QFC Authority consisting of a Board chaired by the Minister of Economics and Finance of Qatar and up to 9 other members appointed by the Council of Ministers. The Board's duties include laying down general policies and plans for the centre (para 5.1 of Sched 1 to the QFC Law) and proposing legislation to the Minister (para 5.2). Art 8 establishes a regulatory authority, regulatory tribunal and Civil and Commercial Court. The Minister has power under art 9 to enact primary legislation known as "regulations" for the QFC within the scope of Schedule 2 which includes intellectual property (para 10 of Sched 2).

So far the Minister has made regulations for arbitration, companies, contracts, data protection, employment, financial services, immigration, partnerships, tax and trusts. Some of those regulations provide for the QFC Authority to make secondary legislation known as "Rules". Art 21 (1) of the Data Protection Regulations 2005. for example, enables the QFC Authority to make rules in respect of any matter relating to the processing of personal data and data controllers. Accordingly, the Authority has made the Data Protection Rules which cover the processing of sensitive data, transfers of data out of the QFC, notification and claims to the Regulatory Authority for relief for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Regulations.

The Civil and Commercial Court
Para 1 of Sched 6 of the QFC Law provides for the Civil and Commercial Court to be governed by a Chairman and a number of other legally qualified members none of whom may be members of the Board. None of those members may sit on the Board, regulatory authority or any other QFC institution. Para 8 of that Schedule provides for the Court to have original and appellate jurisdiction for which purpose it sits in First and Appellate Circuits.

The President of the QFC Civil and Commercial Court is Lord Woolf . the former Master of the Rolls. Other judges include Lord Cullen, Lord Scott, Sir Philip Otton, Sir Peter Gibson and Barbara Dohmann QC. There are also judges form other jurisdictions and academia.

Case Law
Judgments of the Court are published on the QFC website. Particularly interesting is the recent decision of the Court in Re Al Mal Bank LLC, Omara and Another v Al Mal Bank LLC where it considers its jurisdiction to make freezing orders in a company insolvency in the absence of a rule book.

Further Information
Any member of the Bar of Qatar or of any other jurisdiction may appear before the QFC Court. There is already a set of chambers in Qatar though none of its members claims expertise in intellectual property. Should anybody wish to discuss this article further he or she can get in touch through my contact form.

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