Exclusive-Qatari court convicts ex-finance minister of laundering $5.6bn - document

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By Andrew Mills

DOHA (Reuters) - A criminal court in Qatar has sentenced the Gulf Arab state's former finance minister to 20 years in prison for laundering more than $5.6 billion, according to a document outlining the judgment seen by Reuters.

The court of first instance also ordered Ali Sherif al-Emadi to pay a fine in excess of 61 billion Qatari riyals ($16.7 billion), consisting of 40.9 billion riyals -- or twice the amount of money he laundered -- plus additional fines amounting to more than 21 billion riyals, the document shows.

Judges also found Sheikh Nawaf bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, a high-ranking member of Qatar's ruling family and a brother of Qatar's former prime minister, guilty of misuse of public funds, sentencing him to six years in prison and fined him 825 million riyals, the same document shows.

Emadi and Sheikh Nawaf, who faced trial along with 14 others, can appeal against the conviction, which the court issued on Jan. 10. It was not immediately clear whether the two had entered pleas in answer to the charges during the trial.

Emadi's lawyers did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment on the conviction and Emadi has not commented publicly since he was arrested.

Sheikh Nawaf could not be reached for comment. Katara Hospitality, the company he previously chaired, declined to provide contact details. A charitable foundation run by his branch of the ruling family, which he previously chaired, said it no longer has links to him.

Emadi was convicted on charges of bribery, abuse of position and power and damage to public funds in addition to money laundering, according to the document, which did not detail the nature of the corruption.

A lawyer representing another of the defendants and a source with knowledge of the case confirmed the contents of the five-page court document seen by Reuters.

Emadi was arrested in May 2021 and fired as minister of finance.

Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has said the investigation of Emadi was related to his capacity as finance minister, and not to other posts he held in the business community during his time as minister.

The arrest, prosecution and now conviction of high ranking Qataris like Emadi and Sheikh Nawaf has sent shockwaves through Qatar's financial establishment.

Such a high-profile anti-corruption probe is unusual in the Gulf, where high-ranking public figures rarely face public scrutiny or prosecution. The day before Emadi's 2021 arrest, Qatar's emir abolished provisions that gave ministers immunity from prosecution, according to the official gazette.

Sheikh Nawaf, a brother of Qatar's former prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, was until 2021 chairman of Katara Hospitality, the hotel arm of QIA, which owns London's Savoy and New York's Plaza and developed the $600 million Katara Towers hotel project in Qatar.

(Reporting by Andrew Mills; Additional reporting by Aziz El-Yaakoubi, Editing by William Maclean)