The United Arab Emirates' Efforts in Combating AML/CFT

For about three years now, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), through the National Committee for the fight against anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism (NAMLCFT), an operative group composed of Government bodies and the Central Bank of the Arab Emirates (CBAUE), in different meetings, have reviewed the guidelines against the fight against financial crimes due to a worrying growth of this criminal conduct, especially towards all those international illicit conducts such as money laundering, tax evasion and fight against terrorism. The main purpose of the re-evaluation of the action plan is to adopt new measures that are more useful and efficient in the fight against financial crimes, primarily by intensifying control procedures and making sanctions tougher, so as to be more in tune with the international AML regulations issued in recent months by the FATF.


"Through regular meetings, we seek to discuss with our strategic partners the latest initiatives to strengthen our joint efforts to combat financial crimes."

-Cit. Khaled Al Tameemi. Governor Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates.


The risk so far highlighted by the ANMLCFT is the danger caused, and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, of international criminal organizations in the national economic fabric: in particular, it has been noted how through legal persons such as the constitution of societies, associations, foundations, NGOs are in reality used not for what is declared as lawful purposes, but as carriers to channel and send illicit goods, arms and sums of money coming from Europe, Africa and America. The current geopolitical problems and risks linked to the HAWALA economic system. In fact, since last year, the central bank has ordered Hawala payment service providers to register with it to strengthen the supervision of money transfers but until this happens, it is not easy for financial police authorities to detect and monitor illicit financial flows. Therefore, the NAMLCFT calls for the active cooperation of professionals in the credit and non credit sector (e.g. real estate, art market, gold and precious stones market) to control and report according to the regulatory procedures, international and domestic, all those transactions that may contain objective and subjective anomalies and that may raise doubts about the declared purposes, that do not go against the AML standards or that have as interests in the purchase and sale of illicit purposes.



Stricter Sanctions

The guidelines in particular provide for strengthening, with what was previously established by means of special federal courts, the attribution of administrative and criminal sanctions more severe towards financial and non-financial subjects with a minimum sanctionable value from 50,000 AED up to 1 Million AED, in some cases if there are acts and facts to attribute greater responsibility and culpability, the fine is increased up to 5 million AED as for example for physical subjects who tried to conceal the real amount and existence of bank accounts to the financial authorities. In addition, the AML/CFT law enforcement plan also aims to increase the penalties for obliged parties, in the event of situations due to failure or delay in reporting SARs on the GoAML(FIU) electronic portal by the AML offices and officers in charge, or in cases of insufficient control activities and customer due diligence (KYC & Due Diligence) with powers of the NAMLCF to execute suspensions or revocation of the license to exercise economic activity resulting in economic and reputational damage to those involved.



Training and Collaboration

The experience of the United Arab Emirates in the fight against money laundering does not converge only towards a single line, aimed at transparency, but also to encourage training and knowledge among obliged parties and partner States towards the international risks deriving from AML/CFT activities. In fact, recently, through bilateral international relations between the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates and the Spanish Guardia Civil Military Corps (investigative personnel specialised in AML/CFT), a week-long practical training session was held in Dubai where NAMLCFT experts presented some investigative and operational dynamics in the fight against AML/CFT such as identification of the beneficial owner, identification anomalies to bank accounts, frauds and information exchange of reports.


It is also recent news that on the 12th April, the new Director of the FIU of the UAE, Ali Faisal Ba'Alawi, was appointed, who begins his second mandate. In every Nation, the role of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is of great importance, since it is the central structure, key to the activities of analysis, exchange of information and collaboration with the State apparatus of judicial and investigative police to counteract illicit activities and financial crimes of an AML/CFT nature, thus attributing to Director Ba'Alawi, the trust and gratitude for the work carried out so far with competence and professionalism.


Written by Dimitri Barberini 

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