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Middle East: Al Rajhi hits back

In an interview in his office in Riyadh, Suliman Azzabin, chief executive of Al Rajhi Bank, pours scorn on allegations that link his bank to terrorist financing repeated in the US Senate report on HSBC last year. So what is Al Rajhi Bank in 2013 really, and how is it still making so much money?

For a bank, and a family, where reputation is all-important, allegations of links to terrorist financing repeated in the US Senate report on HSBC last July were a big blow.

First as currency traders and later as a bank, the Al Rajhi family has had accounts with key banks in the main financial centres of Europe, north America and Asia for more than 40 years. In Saudi Arabia, Al Rajhi remains the largest bank by market value, with an extremely profitable Islamic retail business, founded on the confidence of millions.

Shortly after the Senate report was published, Al Rajhi Bank released a statement firmly denying the allegations. Nevertheless, the repetition of these old claims had a big impact on the financial community in Saudi Arabia and internationally.

Bulge-bracket banks in London, New York and elsewhere had to sift through their business with Al Rajhi in the light of the report, regardless of what they thought of the allegations. "After the release of the US Senate report on HSBC last year, we spoke in detail about it to our relationship banks in the US, Europe and Asia," says Suliman Azzabin, chief executive of Al Rajhi Bank, in an interview in his office last month.

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