MUSCAT: With digital communications and fintech blurring the line between legitimate financial service providers and unlicensed operators, the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has rolled out a confidential reporting channel that enables banking and financial sector stakeholders, as well as the general public, to blow the whistle on unauthorized players operating in the Sultanate of Oman.

A new dedicated email ID [] now makes it possible for individuals and organisations alike to confidentially report or share their suspicions of providers of ‘Unlicensed Banking Business’ and ‘Payment Services’ operating in Oman without a license.

Announcing the initiative in a circular issued on Wednesday, CBO Executive President Tahir Salim al Amri said: “It has come to our attention that certain persons / entities engage in businesses / activities (...) without obtaining the required license. In the past, the Central Bank of Oman has issued warnings to unlicensed operators and sensitized the public not to deal with unlicensed entities.”

Al Amri further added: “To enhance the efforts to detect such unlicensed entities / persons operating in the financial sector, it has been decided to introduce an anonymous whistleblowing channel as a communication conduit with the whistleblower (public and all market participants including the licensed institutions) to report any suspected cases of unlicensed business falling under the ambit of the CBO licensed institutions.”

In cracking down on unlicensed banking and payment service activities, the circular cited Article 5 of the Banking Law, which requires operators to obtain a license from the CBO.

Likewise, Article 5 of the National Payment Systems Law, prohibits the provision of payment services without a requisite license.

Whistleblowers are assured that their identities will remain anonymous, the Executive President stated in the circular, which has gone out to all licensed banks, finance and leasing companies (FLCs), money exchange establishments, payment service providers operating in Oman.

In launching the measure, the Central Bank said it was seeking to safeguard the interests of licensed operators, while also ensuring that unwary customers are not defrauded.

Significantly, the measure is the latest in a series of advisories issued by Oman’s apex bank over the past year cautioning consumers and the general public about risks related to, among others, electronic phishing, donating to anonymous or dubious charities, and anti-money laundering and terror-financing activities.

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