UAE authorities pursuing 'hundreds of cases' in financial crime crackdown

Anti-money laundering office says recent action has led to convictions and deportations

UAE authorities said in 2021 more than Dh2 billion was confiscated as a result of financial crime investigations. Antonie Robertson / The National
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A task force set up to clamp down on money laundering and terrorist financing has said hundreds of cases are actively being pursued by UAE prosecutors.

The Executive Office for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Finance released details of recent prosecutions and deportations of suspects.

In 2021, the authorities confiscated more than Dh2 billion ($544.5m), including Dh1.1bn in money laundering offences, a statement from the office said.

“We have been co-operating and contributing to the global fight against financial crime for several years now. We have a highly effective system of identifying and preventing terrorist and other criminal activities, in co-operation with our international partners,” said Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the executive office for AML/CFT.

The authorities are using all available resources to investigate and punish criminals and seize their illicit-gotten gains
Hamid Al Zaabi, executive office for AML/CFT

“On both terrorist financing and money laundering, we are taking swift action to prevent criminal abuse. This is not a ‘new’ area to us. It is also one we continue to take extremely seriously.

“The country’s policies and strategies detect and deter financial crimes, and prevent the abuse of the UAE as a transit route or to transfer funds resulting from any criminal activity.”

In one case, UAE law enforcement confiscated about Dh175 million in cash and assets. The main suspects were extradited to the US with the support of the Ministry of Interior acting on an Interpol red notice. The prime suspect pleaded guilty to money laundering in a US court.

UAE officials did not identify the suspects.

“The authorities are using all available resources to investigate and punish criminals and seize their illicit-gotten gains,” Mr Al Zaabi said.

Set up in 2020, the office works with prosecutors and a range of government departments in the UAE and abroad to tackle financial crime.

This includes police, state security and the securities and commodities authorities, among others.

One priority, Mr Al Zaabi said, is to work with the private sector to increase awareness of commitments and responsibilities in preventing financial crime.

“There are hundreds of continuing cases that the law enforcement authorities and UAE Public Prosecutors are actively pursuing," he said. "Some of these have come full circle.

“Acting on co-ordination between the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit, Federal Customs Authority and Dubai Public Prosecution, Dubai Courts convicted eight individuals and three companies for cyber fraud and money laundering, with jail sentences, deportations and multiple fines handed down worth Dh14m.

“Additionally, the UAE Central Bank has fined firms more than Dh17.31m in 2021, for violating AML/CFT rules. These are just some of the examples that I can mention.”

Last month, in a review of 2021 actions, the executive office for AML/CFT said confiscations included Dh300m from the proceeds of overseas crimes.

The unit said Dh286m in cash and another Dh15m in gold and other precious metals was also gathered.

Updated: June 07, 2023, 4:22 PM