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Qatar investigates financial plot amid Saudi-led crisis

A man looks at his phone on the corniche in the Qatari capital Doha on July 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Qatar says it has launched an investigation into an alleged plot to manipulate its currency during the early weeks of a diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf region.

Saif al-Thani, the director of Qatar's government communications office, said an unnamed global financial institution, partly owned by Emirati investors, had been ordered to stop trading Qatari riyals across Europe and Asia.

"One of the financial institutions stopped trading in riyals for a few days and it was only when we reached out to them" that it resumed, Thani said.

He further said that Qatar's intelligence agencies are conducting a probe and "have engaged with law enforcement officials in the relevant jurisdictions”.

"If this financial warfare is true, it is disgraceful and dangerous not only to Qatar's economy but the global economy," he added.

The announcement came a few days after The Intercept, a US-based investigative website, exposed a stunning detailed plot by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to wage an economic war on Qatar.

The Intercept said it had gotten hold of the anti-Qatar project in a folder of UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba’s e-mail account.

Under the plan, the UAE sought to target Qatar’s currency “using bonds and derivatives manipulation.”

The plot allegedly aimed to cause Qatar’s economy to collapse, and eventually portray Doha as incapable of hosting World Cup 2022.

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba

According to the Qatari spokesman, Doha had become aware of the currency issue in July but was revisiting the issue following recent media reports. "Definitely they are attacking (World Cup) 2022 in one way or another."

Qatar is the first Arab country to be chosen to host the FIFA World Cup and has launched massive construction projects in preparation, triggering a huge influx of foreign workers.

On Wednesday, the UN's labor agency closed a three-year investigation into the alleged mistreatment of those workers, praising Qatar’s reform plan.

Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by the emirate.

The Saudi-led bloc presented Qatar with a list of demands, among them downgrading ties with Iran, and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences. Doha refused to meet the demands and said that they were meant to force the country to surrender its sovereignty.

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