Anti-money laundering and terrorism financing unit says UAE seized Dh2.3bn in 2021

Task force has set out plans to intensify its campaign against the illicit funding of terrorism in 2022

Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the UAE anti-money laundering office. Photo: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation
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A UAE task force set up to snare money launderers and criminals financing terrorism said more than Dh2 billion in illicit funds had been seized in its first year.

The Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing, which was established in February, said UAE authorities confiscated Dh2.33bn as part of an intensive clamp down on financial crime.

The huge haul included Dh1.1bn linked to money laundering offences and Dh300 million from the proceeds of overseas crimes.

The unit said Dh286m in cash and another Dh15m in gold and other precious metals had been gathered.

The office intends to step up its fight against economic crimes this year by teaming up with the Executive Office of the Committee for Goods and Materials Subject to Import and Export Control.

The two organisations have carried out a risk assessment of how financial resources could be used to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – something known as proliferation funding. They will also emphasise the private sector's obligations under UAE law.

Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the anti-money laundering office, said further scrutiny was crucial to addressing a global issue.

"The UAE is a strong supporter of non-proliferation and recognises the key role as a centre for trade and investment," he said.

"We are pleased to launch this first national risk assessment on proliferation financing to formalise the UAE's existing efforts to combat this critical global problem.

"Developing a thorough understanding of risk will lead to stronger preventative policy development and implementation of counter-proliferation financing measures by entities in the UAE. Our work will also raise awareness among the public and private sectors and encourage all stakeholders to continue to improve their investigations and prevention of proliferation financing activity within the global financial system."

The agency, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, aims to protect the integrity of the UAE's financial system and "actively pursue those who abuse it for illicit means", said Mr Al Zaabi after its launch.

It is striving to protect vital financial interests undermined by dirty money, illicit finance and the funding of terrorism.

The team is working with international organisations such as the GCC, the G7, the G20 and the Financial Action Task Force to close the net on offenders.

The office is central to a wider campaign by the UAE against financial crimes. In December, the Ministry of Community Development joined forces with the Financial Intelligence Unit to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In November 2020, the Ministry of Economy set up an anti-money laundering department, while a court was established in Abu Dhabi to tackle money laundering and tax evasion.

Updated: January 26, 2022, 1:28 PM
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