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The recently established International Islamic Business Association (IAIB) has announced plans to develop halal businesses and open offices throughout the region. However, changes in Russian legislation are needed to attract investment from Muslim countries. The IAIB was launched in the assembly hall of the Golden Ring hotel in Moscow on 16 February. One of the founders of IAIB, Samir Huseynov, said that lobbying to change Russian legislation and to create favorable conditions for Islamic banks is one of the main goals of IAIB. In contrast, former Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoy, who took part in the launch event, said that he does not believe laws need to be changed to enable the operation of Islamic banks in Russia.
The global Islamic finance industry will see a new entrant in Russia. Moscow Industrial Bank has already started the process of getting acclimatized with the Islamic finance industry by learning from the established model of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Abubakar Arsamaskof, president of Moscow Industrial Bank, said that the bank has 7,000 employees working in 260 branches that provide different products and services. He added that their main focus is on industry, construction and agriculture. He also highlighted that they issue Muslim debt card to those wanting to perform Haj. He also indicated that Russian companies are moving towards the Halal industry in a big way and have investments that are estimated at $100 million. The Russian delegation was visiting the IDB to collaborate with regard to Awqaf and enhance the Islamic finance system in Russia. Other negotiations include collaboration between IDB and Moscow Industrial Bank to find investment opportunities and create jobs for youth.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore collaboration between entrepreneurs from Islamic countries and Russian Federation. The two institutions are determined to collaborate on introducing Islamic banking products in Russia and lobbying for changes in Russian banking legislation. ICD's CEO Khaled Al-Aboodi said he was looking forward to the collaboration, while IAIB President Marat Kabayev said the purpose of the partnership was to develop economic ties among Islamic countries, to promote Islamic Finance in Russia and attract investors from Islamic countries. ICD and IAIB also agreed to organize joint professional programmes, market research, workshops, publications, study tours and assistance in production and certification of Halal goods.
Russia and Iran are exploring the establishment of an Islamic bank as the two countries expand their economic cooperation. According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, the banks are exploring the mechanism, but the related decision has not been made yet. State-linked Russian lenders Vnesheconombank, Sberbank and Tatfondbank have been developing Islamic financial products of their own over the past year. Iran is keen to diversify funding options for its companies. At present, most financing in Iran is sourced from domestic lenders with only a small portion sourced from foreign sources and the debt capital markets.
Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.
The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.
Dragon Capital Partners (DCP) has mandated the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) as a strategic advisor for developing a joint investment fund to raise $100 million for Kazakhstani SMEs. The purpose of the fund will be to co-invest with foreign investors in Kazakhstan and unlock growth potential in key sectors of the country. The Silk-Way Growth Fund initiative aims to attract international equity funds to invest in Kazakhstani SMEs. The Fund will invest in high-growth Kazakhstani industrial and manufacturing SMEs that enjoy competitive advantages and strong export potential and capacity. The Fund will help reviving the Silk Road on Kazakhstani territory.
The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev met with the President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr. Bandar Hajjar, on an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. President Nazarbayev praised the cooperation between IsDB and his country and congratulated Dr. Hajjar on his recent assumption of duties as the new IsDB Group President. President Nazarbayev plans to launch the program 100 Steps, which is designed to introduce structural and economic reforms to Kazakhstan. The program also envisages the launching of Astana International Financial Center as a center of excellence for financial services at regional and global level. President Nazarbayev called on IsDB to provide technical support in the fields of development and Islamic finance. Dr. Hajjar assured that the IsDB Group would provide the required technical assistance to support President Nazarbayev’s initiatives.
The Islamic fund on microfinance may be soon created in Azerbaijan. Recently, a mission of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), which included the ICD Senior Regional Manager of for CIS and Europe countries Samir Taghiyev and the Microfinance Advisor at the ICD Bassem Khanfar, visited Baku. Azerbaijan has become one of the two countries, where the ICD starts negotiations with participants of the microfinance market. The second country is Kazakhstan. Earlier, during the 8th Micro-finance Conference in Baku, Executive Director of Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association (AMFA) Zhale Hajiyeva said that businessmen of post-Soviet countries also showed interest in the market. Currently, loan portfolio of Azerbaijan’s microfinance organizations amounted to $485.16 million, according to AMFA.
Vnesheconombank, Sberbank and Tatfondbank are going to take part in the 23rdWorld Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain from 5 to 7 of December 2016. The three banks are working on launching Islamic finance products to get access to the investors from the Gulf countries and Southeast Asia. According to Linar Yakupov, head of the Association of Regional Investment Agencies of the Russian Federation, there is growing interest from other 20 Russian banks. However, the current legislation system of Russia complicates the progress. It forbids banks from engaging in commercial activities, so they can operate only a limited range of assets.
During the visit, the ICD delegation will meet with representatives of Azerbaijan's financial sector to study the potential of micro-finance market and works done in this sphere. The conference will also be attended by representatives of Germany's KfW Group.
#Kazakhstan based SK Leasing (SKL) announced that it has engaged Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to help the company achieve Shari'a Compliance in its business activities. Managing director Duman Nurbayev said SKL is going to be the first leasing company in Kazakhstan to be fully converted into Sharia compliant activities. Also, they are planning to be the first company in the CIS region which will provide a wide range of Islamic Financial products and services. SKL finances projects in the real economy sector for renovation, modernization and expansion of fixed assets. SKL has 3 domestic offices and approximately 240 clients. Its regional network includes representations in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau.
Russia continues to open new avenues and to provide new instruments for international investors through Islamic finance. Representatives of major banks and a high official of the Russian central bank will partake in the 23rd World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain’s capital Manama. The reason why Moscow is increasingly opening up to Islamic finance lies mainly within its quest to make up for a shortfall caused by Western sanctions. Three state-linked Russian banks, Vnesheconombank, Sberbank and Tatfondbank have all signed agreements with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in order to launch Islamic finance products. Maxim Osintsev, executive director at Sberbank, said there was now political will for Islamic finance to be developed in Russia. The ice has broken and people now understand that Islamic banking products can be in demand.
As Russia's economy continues to stagnate, the country's 83 regions are being forced to compete with one another for outside investment. Four of Russia's Muslim republics, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya and Dagestan, have set their sights on Muslim states in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Despite their economic differences, Russia's Muslim republics have been uniformly hurt by the collapse in global oil prices. Though Islamic financing has been legally banned in Russia, the Muslim republics have simply ignored it outright, issuing transactions under Islamic banking guidelines or negotiating with foreign financial groups to start implementing them. Tatarstan and Chechnya discussed several construction projects, but the question now is whether Russia will allow Gulf state financing to continue. Most likely it will continue to put national security and Russian unity ahead of the needs of the Muslim population.
From Canada, CI Financial, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Life Financial are also included in the Hall of Shame. Jointly, these Canadian financial institutions invested US$565 million in cluster munitions producers between June 2012 and April 2016.
The report by Dutch peace organisation PAX was released today in Ottawa, together with the Cluster Munition Coalition and Mines Action Canada, to put pressure on Canada and other governments to put an end to these investments.
“It is an absolute outrage that financial institutions are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law”, says Suzanne Oosterwijk, author of the PAX report. “Canada has also banned these weapons. It is time for financial institutions to stop disregarding the international norm with these explosive investments into producers of illegal weapons that maim and kill civilians.”
In Russia a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Islamic business and finance development Fund (IBFD) and TAWUN, a Shariah consulting company of Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation was led by S.M Muneer from the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and Mehmood Arshad, the Founder of TAWUN. Arshad stated that the Russian market is very interesting for his organization and TAWUN has all the necessary experience and competence. They will support Russia to launch Shariah-compliant products and get additional funding from OIC countries.
Russia is hoping to close deals shortly to attract Islamic banks to invest in Russia to help make up for a shortfall in international finance caused by Western sanctions. The head of Vnesheconombank Sergei Gorkov said funds invested by Islamic banks will be used for infrastructure projects in the country. He added that that Russia is expected to close its first deals to attract Islamic capital in the autumn of 2016. However, the active introduction of Islamic banking is opposed by some Russian lawmakers.
Two of the largest Russian banks will soon incorporate Islamic banking rules into their line of work. The proposal was made by Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Tatarstan and banks are displaying real interest. Minnikhanov pointed out that should the two banks incorporate the new system of transactions, Russia would be forced to revise a score of fiscal laws and regulations. Sberbank's First Deputy Chairman, Maxim Poletaev, said the bank plans several pilot transactions in autumn 2016 in the Republic of Tatarstan.
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Russia’s VEB development bank plans to announce its first deals with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in the near future. VEB Chairman Sergey Gorkov said the bank may announce particular transactions in the autumn this year. However, there are several opposite viewpoints regarding the partnership. Russia’s Federation Council deputy speaker Yevgeny Bushmin said that the Central Bank and the Russian legislation are not prepared for promotion of Islamic banking in the country.