Dubai convicts eight people and three companies for cyber fraud and money laundering

Defendants hatched a plan to hack into a company’s bank account and launder stolen funds worth around $3.81m

The UAE has strict measures to combat money laundering. EPA
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The Dubai Misdemeanour Court has convicted eight individuals and three companies for cyber fraud and laundering of stolen funds amounting to about Dh14 million ($3.81m), as the UAE continues to combat financial crimes.

One of the defendants hacked into a company’s bank account and fraudulently transferred money into his own company’s account, counsellor Ismail Ali Madani, chief of Public Funds Prosecution, said in a statement by the Dubai Media Office on Saturday.

The other convicted individuals helped the first defendant conduct a series of illegal transactions to transfer and launder the money, as well as conceal the crime and source of funds.

The UAE has introduced strict measures to combat money laundering, as the Gulf business hub strengthens its defences against financial crime. The country set up the Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) in February to identify money launderers and those suspected of financing terrorists and organised crime.

The Central Bank of the UAE also regularly issues guidelines on how companies can assess money-laundering risks.

The court sentenced the first defendant to three years' imprisonment, followed by deportation. The other defendants were sentenced to prison for periods ranging from six months to one year, followed by deportation. Two defendants were also fined Dh20,000 each.

In addition, the court imposed a fine of Dh300,000 on each of the three companies involved in the crime and ordered them to return more than Dh9m stolen through cyber fraud to the victim’s company.

The prosecutors’ investigations revealed an “elaborate plot” to hack into the email of the victim’s company and access correspondence, confidential bank account details and mechanisms for transferring funds, which allowed them to steal a large portion of the Dh14m from the victim’s account, said Abdul Rahman Nasser Hassan, chief prosecution assistant, who initiated the investigation.

After depositing the amount in their account, the defendants engaged in illegal transactions to conceal the source of the funds, he added.

Working with other law enforcement authorities, Dubai Public Prosecution referred the defendants to the Dubai Misdemeanour Court, which found them guilty of cyber fraud and money laundering and sentenced them under federal laws on anti-money laundering, combating terrorism financing and financing of illegal organisations, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the UAE's Executive Office of AML/CTF signed a pact with the Economic Security Centre of Dubai to boost co-operation between the two offices with a focus on information sharing, training and research initiatives.

“Our enhanced co-operation with the Economic Security Centre of Dubai will support its mandate to sustain a stable economic environment that fosters investment and growth by preventing and countering harmful economic trends and illegal activities under its jurisdiction,” Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the Executive Office of AML/CTF, told state-run news agency Wam.

Co-operation between the two entities will add “another layer of security to the national economy, while enhancing its reputation as secure centre in which financial businesses can operate”, he added.

Updated: August 21, 2021, 4:36 PM