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Saudi Arabia hires new head for digital currency programme

Wristwatch, Coin, Money Reuters/Dado Ruvic
Representations of cryptocurrencies are seen in this illustration.

Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has appointed Mohsen Al-Zahrani to head its digital currency programme, Bloomberg reported.

The kingdom had taken a conservative approach on virtual assets until now, given their speculative nature, the report quoted unnamed sources as saying.

Neightbouring Gulf state, the United Arab Emirates, has taken the lead to become a global crypto hub, encouraging Riyadh to also draft regulations for the digital asset class.

Al-Zahrani, a former managing director at consultancy Accenture, will report to Ziad Al-Yousef, SAMA’s deputy governor for development and technology.

The new team in Riyadh will engage with some of the largest global crypto firms on future regulations.

According to the report, Binance Holdings Ltd. is one of several major crypto players who have set up in a Saudi team, identifying the kingdom as a largely untapped market.

In 2018, SAMA banned banks from processing transactions involving cryptocurrencies.

Elsewhere, the Saudi central bank has been collaborating with the Central Bank of the UAE for several years on introducing a potential joint digital currency.