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OPINION | MORE MONEY THAN SAND

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Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has become a regional business hub in the Middle East.

Behind the facade of respectability that Dubai has carefully cultivated over the years, the flow of illicit funds “has helped to fuel the emirate’s booming real estate market; enrich its bankers, moneychangers, and business elites; and turn the city into a major gold trading hub,” the authors of the Carnegie report added.

Dubai, in particular, has become the piggybank for corrupt politicians from around the world. Those who secretly plunder their countries finances hide their money there. It used to be Switzerland and Lichtenstein, but they have become so unsafe and transparent putting the stolen cash in their banks is a risk.

The Russians, South Americans, Caribbean leaders, and those who can still plunder their countries go there for holidays and visits. For many, the real reason to go there is to count their ill-gotten cash.

Some will remember the exposures that showed countries such as Saint Vincent and the Caribbean had millions tucked away in Switzerland. But, unfortunately, no one has got to the bottom yet who deposited that money, and it has not become public knowledge if they have.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are a money-laundering country. The U.S. State Department identified St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a significant money laundering jurisdiction. The small set of islands remains vulnerable to money laundering and other financial crimes due to drug trafficking and its active offshore financial sector.

The Americans say Dubai is a ‘haven for money laundering.’ The UAE’s unwillingness to tackle corruption and money laundering is a global challenge that must be addressed, says the U.S. think tank. The Gulf city of Dubai has been slammed as a “money laundering paradise” by the leading anti-corruption group ‘Transparency International.’ One of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, Dubai has built a reputation as the pre-eminent business hub in the Middle East, with an open economy that welcomes companies and individuals worldwide.

A new report from the U.S. ‘Carnegie Endowment’ has found that the wealth underpinning “Dubai’s prosperity is a steady stream of illicit proceeds borne from corruption and crime.”

The report from the US-based think-tank will likely further cast a long shadow on its much-vaunted projected image as a haven for respectable investment.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has become a regional business hub in the Middle East.

Many politician thieves have adopted cryptocurrencies to move money without the paperwork and accountability. Banking watchdogs across the globe are making AML/CFT norms stricter for their subjects, forcing banks to upgrade their scanners for fear of massive fines. Having spent billions of dollars on new systems and personnel, they have reduced money laundering activities to a certain extent. However, criminals have also grown smarter.

They employ professional money laundering cells that do not operate within the confines of static, predefined, overly-broad transactional actions. As a result, they can circumvent many regulatory norms, which were thought to be perfect, with the sophistication involved in the latest financial technologies.

At the same time, some of the technological advances like cryptocurrencies helped them avoid the formal financial systems for value transfers while paying for and receiving goods and services and buying villas and property in the UAE.

Perhaps the public should ask questions about why their politicians are visiting Dubai? If your politicians or any close relative of theirs is involved in cryptocurrency, then I suppose extra scrutiny should be made.

But keep in mind it is not illegal to save your money in an overseas bank anywhere. The illegality comes into play when the money is illegally and improperly obtained. It is also not unlawful or unduly suspicious to visit Dubai because many do that without depositing or investing stolen money there.

If there is any information that the reader can give Transparency International, it will be gratefully received, and whistleblowers will be respected. ti@transparency.org

By Nathan Green. February 2022.

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