British help tackle money laundering

Nearly 40 government officials will be trained in anti-money laundering methods by UK officials.

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Money laundering and smuggling are persistent problems in the region, and Abu Dhabi is getting help from British experts to tackle the problem. Nearly 40 government officials will be trained in anti-money laundering and anti-smuggling intelligence methods this month by the Intelligence & National Operations unit of the UK Border Agency. It highlights a budding alliance with Abu Dhabi Customs.

Saeed al Muhairi, the general manager of the General Administration of Customs, a division of the Department of Finance, said the courses were important because money laundering was still happening despite GCC governments' best efforts to stem it. The training is the first example of a strengthening link between the two government departments. Last November, the UK Border Agency and Abu Dhabi Customs signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to co-operate on customs matters.

The UK Border Agency is teaching one course entitled Intelligence Awareness and another in Anti-Money Laundering in four groups each lasting one week, throughout May. "This is part of ongoing efforts for the UAE to improve the security of the country by signing these types of MOUs and doing better surveillance to stop illegal smuggling in and out of the country," said Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Dubai-based Institute For Near East & Gulf Military Analysis.

Dr Karasik urged such efforts to be spread to the other emirates, where subtle differences in methods and strategy remained. "This needs to be unified at the federal level and I'm sure they are working on this," he said. The Abu Dhabi Customs department helps guard against the illegal import of drugs, guns, ammunition, petrol, as well as so-called "black magic" potions that are brought in to meet demand from some expatriate communities.

The department is also upgrading its systems, procedures and facilities in Ghweifat where 1,400 lorries enter every day from Saudi Arabia. It later plans to extend the new approach throughout Abu Dhabi's roughly one dozen border points. The customs alliance coincides with more British co-operation with other government departments. More than 50 former senior British police officers are assisting Abu Dhabi Police in a modernisation programme, including coursework in community policing, criminal investigation, forensics and armed response.