As IDs expire, illegal remittances thrive

June 09, 2014 - 4:07:41 am

BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB

DOHA: Many low-income workers, in absence of valid Qatar ID cards, are reportedly forced to use unofficial channels to remit money home.

According to government rules, an expatriate’s work visa and ID can be renewed within 90 days from the expiry date. But exchange houses insist customers produce valid IDs to remit money overseas. This is forcing many people with expired IDs to resort to unofficial remittance channels like ‘hundi’, hawala, and using proxy ID cards, for transferring money. However despite repeated efforts, this newspaper could not verify the practice independently.

“Everyday we receive nearly four to six percent customers, mostly limited income workers with expired ID cards requesting money transfer,” said a senior official of a leading exchange house.

He said that Ministry of Interior rules allow 90 days of grace after the expiry of an ID card and visa. 

According to industry analysts, remittances by expatriates are estimated to have reached QR33bn ($9bn) during the first six months of 2013. A senior official of 

Al Zaman Exchange told this newspaper yesterday that remittance during the first quarter of 2014 rose 20 percent compared to the last quarter of 2013.

Some middlemen reportedly operating from labour camps are facilitating illegal remittance to make a fast buck. “Under QCB rules, any exchange house employee or bank can be fined if found remitting money without a valid Qatar ID card, but according to informed sources, there are some exchange houses that are entertaining such customers,” said the source, adding: “If the use of an expired ID card or an alternative ID proof is allowed in the grace period offered by the MoI, it can help in curbing the practice.”

Enquiries with some leading exchange houses confirmed the above practice.

A senior employee of Al Zaman Exchange, requesting anonymity, said: “The problem is not limited to only low income workers. There are professionals who come to us for money transfer with expired ID cards or no ID cards and insist that their health cards or driver’s licence be used as proof of identity.

“A few weeks ago, even some of our staff faced the same problem as their IDs could not be renewed in time due to heavy workload at MoI Service Centres.”

Edison Fernandes, General Manager of UAE Exchange (Qatar), also acknowledged the issue. He said: “Yes, everyday we are returning about 3-4 percent of the total daily customers for not having valid IDs cards.” 

Asked how such customers remit money, he said: “It is not appropriate for me to comment on this, but some might be seeking help of their friends to remit money legally.” The Peninsula

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