UAE committee details plans to boost information sharing on financial crimes

Public-private partnership sub committee was formed last year to enhance country’s efforts to stop money laundering and terror financing

The UAE created the Public-Private Partnership Sub-Committee (PPPSC) last year to co-ordinate between public and private sectors in various anti-money laundering efforts. Antonie Robertson / The National
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The UAE’s Public-Private Partnership Sub Committee has put forth a regulatory approach to prevent money laundering and terror financing activities by sharing strategic information and intelligence between the country's public and private sectors.

The national body, which was established last year, aims to bring together government agencies and the private sector to fight financial crime, the Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing said in a statement on Tuesday.

In its first public consultation paper, the committee recommended that consideration be given to confidentiality and data protection obligations. It also called for intelligence sharing through the creation of a dedicated secure digital platform.

“The UAE aims to create a regulatory approach that allows for increased intelligence sharing through the creation of a dedicated secure digital platform, expanding from strategic information to more operational information,” said Mohamed Shalo, chairman of the sub committee and director of communications and strategic partnerships at the executive office.

“This enhanced regulatory toolbox will allow for private and public entities to increase their grasp of the scope and breadth of illicit money flows.”

The committee was set up by the National Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Illegal Organisations and led by the executive office.

The committee is co-ordinating closely with the private sector in the UAE to curb financial crimes in the country.

The consultation paper, a key step in the UAE’s fight against financial crime, seeks comments, suggestions and feedback from all members and relevant stakeholders to enhance the drafted provisions.

The body's mandate is to consult with both financial institutions and designated non-financial business and professions from the private sector to develop best practices and share intelligence, guidance and expertise in the fight against money laundering, the financing of terrorism and proliferation financing.

“The private sector in the UAE is a key strategic partner across all sectors, and our endeavours to promote a sound financial system and economic activities cannot be accomplished without the private sector remaining at the heart of these initiatives,” said Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the executive office.

In its three-year strategic plan, the committee is pushing to enhance the country's AML/CFT efforts in line with the criteria laid out by the Financial Action Task Force, Mr Al Zaabi told The National last month.

Echoing his views, Khaled Balama, Governor of the UAE Central Bank, said the country's establishment of the committee is a demonstration of its commitment to protecting the integrity of the global financial system in collaboration with the private sector.

“The UAE PPPSC is a unique hybrid model, as it brings together relevant governmental agencies with financial institutions … PPPs [public-private partnerships] are fundamental today in the effective fight against money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing,” Mr Balama said.

The UAE has made significant progress in its fight against financial crime in recent months.

The country seized and confiscated assets worth more than Dh4.73 billion ($1.29 billion) in the 12 months to the end of July, as regulators stepped up the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Assets worth Dh2.54 billion were seized by authorities while assets worth Dh2.19 billion were confiscated in the same period, Mr Al Zaabi told The National last month.

UAE authorities also froze assets worth more than Dh13 million during the same period as the country prioritises AML/CFT as part of its efforts to achieve its national strategic goals.

The Emirates' anti-money laundering measures are designed to enhance the detection and disruption of financial crime networks and offer intelligence-led methods that deny criminals illicit profits and resources, the executive office said.

Meanwhile, the UAE Central Bank has frequently been updating rules and regulations for the financial services sector in its fight against illicit financial transactions.

In August, the regulator issued new guidelines to help licensed financial institutions to combat money laundering and terrorism financing on risks related to payments.

The UAE is also using Financial Action Task Force standards in its fight against money laundering, in synch with global efforts.

The country's Financial Intelligence Unit — the agency that works closely with authorities to determine links between possible proceeds of crime, money laundering or terrorist financing — reported a 51 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of suspicious transaction reports in the first quarter of 2022.

Updated: November 22, 2022, 3:19 PM