By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, July 3 (KUNA) -- A Belgian academic and economist launched last
December a global network of Islamic Finance lawyers to give legal advice in
all aspects of Islamic Finance.
The project called Islamic Finance Lawyers (IsFin) is based on
macro-economic observations that money today is mainly in the hands of Islamic
financing investors, said Laurent Marliere, a professor in marketing and
general manager of IsFin.
Speaking to the Kuwait news agency (KUNA) he explained that there are two
reasons for this, high price of oil and secondly the ethical issue.
"The Islamic banks have not been shaken by the credit crunch because they
had no toxic products so they are also very strong," he said.
"Islamic finance is fast growing area of finance. Islamic finance is new to
the western world. It is going to grow. This is an area moving fast," said
Marliere who has written a dozen books on economics and has 20 years
experience working with international law firms.
Asked how he came to the idea of Islamic finance the Belgian academic
replied that he had specific interest in the subject and he did a one-year
course on Islamic finance.
"I felt the gap in the market. There are only about a dozen global law
firms that help Islamic investors do their legal expertise," he explained.
"The most difficult aspect is to find lawyers specialising in Islamic
finance in the western world. It is easy to find a specialist in Kuala Lumpur
or Dubai but not here," said the Belgian economist.
"If you seek a lawyer for example in Sweden on sukuk (Islamic bond)
investment it will be very difficult. But we have a specialized local lawyer
who understand the technicality and culture of Islamic finance," he asserted.
He said Islamic investors today are seeking more secure and stable
investments so they seek investments in European countries like Sweden France
In Europe IsFin has 15 large and reputed law firms as members.
He gave as an example that their member in Spain, CUATRECASAS, has as their
clients the Spanish government and also Kuwaiti banks.
Marliere stressed that "this is not an European project. It is a world-wide
project. We are now opening up membership for law firms in the Middle East and
Asia, "he said .
Asked why the project is based in the Belgian capital he repled that
Brussels is home to many large international law firms.
Ines Wouters, a Brussels-based lawyer specialising in taxes and a partner
in IsFin, told KUNA that one of the main obstacles in the development of
Islamic finance is the tax issue.
"Islamic finance is something new and each country has different landscape
related to regulations and taxes so the idea is how to implement in a
particular landscape Islamic finance in order to make it effective, " she said.
Wouters said they have organised seminars for law firms on Islamic finance
in Brussels with the participation of scholars from the Muslim world and the
"The legal environment in Belgium is actually quite friendly and there are
real possibilities to develop projects which are Sharia-compatible either for
Muslims but also for non-Muslims," she noted.
There is big demand here in Brussels of Sharia-compatible products and also
how to organise business in Shari-compatible way, she added. (end)
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