Dubai is a favorite destination for rich Russians after Western sanctions (Getty)
The United States is silent on the efforts of the UAE, Israel and other countries to a lesser extent to weaken the sanctions against Russia, but it seems that the silence will not last, and there are indications that the issue to a confrontation could lead between Washington and Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
Diplomats believe it will not be too late for the United States to pressure the UAE and Israel to confiscate and freeze Russian assets, and it can not remain indifferent to the movement of Western public opinion against businessmen near the Kremlin, such as Oleg Deripaska, whose home in London was occupied by protesters.
At a time when the countries of Europe are witnessing the influx of tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the inferno of the Russian war, Dubai and Israel are opening the door to businessmen and owners of large fortunes who are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And the US Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, issued a warning to Israel: “We do not want this to be the last resort for dirty money aimed at financing Putin’s wars, “while the first strong reaction against the UAE comes from the general meeting of the” FATF “(FATF), which was held from 1 to 4 last March, where the UAE was placed on the” gray list “of countries for a full year for illegal funding should be monitored, to “prevent money laundering”, and the organization’s report gave a classification “Low” for investigations and prosecutions for money laundering, and a “medium” rating for preventive measures.
The group said the UAE authorities should close loopholes in the real estate and precious metals sectors, which could be exploited by money laundering. He licked at the atmosphere of the meeting, if the UAE fails to make improvements to its financial system, it could find itself alongside countries such as Syria, Yemen and Pakistan, which the organization considers to be suffering from “strategic shortcomings”. . “
There are estimates that the United States may choose to go further, such as by restricting the UAE’s access to the international financial system, or by imposing additional sanctions on certain companies or financial institutions.
And this move to the Emirates came after photos of private jets and yachts owned by businessmen from the lining of the Russian president appeared on the pages of Western newspapers, anchored in Dubai airports and ports, after they came under the sanctions escaped from custody. laws imposed by the United States on this The class known as “the oligarchs”, a group of billionaires whose number does not exceed fifty, united by the fact that they are close to Putin, part of the Russian economy control, and has large investments abroad, especially in France and Britain.
Among the yachts is the $ 156 million Madame Gu luxury yacht owned by Andrei Skoch, a Russian businessman and member of the State Duma who is subject to US and European sanctions.
Not far away, in Port Rashid, another yacht, “Nirvana”, is moored, belonging to what is known in the Western press as the non-sanctioned nickel magnate, Vladimir Potanin. There is a third yacht, “Titan”, worth $ 82 million, owned by the businessman and one of the magnates of the steel trade, Alexander Abramov.
According to data from the ship tracking service, several other smaller yachts belonging to Russian businessmen were moored at Dubai ports. These include two other yachts, Sea & Us, worth $ 58 million, and Anatoly Sedykh, worth $ 73 million.
Port Rashid belongs to the government of Dubai, which also owns another yacht marina popular among Russian billionaires, Porto Montenegro in Montenegro, through the Dubai Investment Corporation.
Similar to the smuggling of yachts to Dubai, the emirate has become a preferred landing strip for private jets owned by Russian “oligarchs”. Western newspapers reported that four private jets belonging to a billionaire subject to international sanctions, Roman Abramovich, Arkady Rotenberg, Viktor Rashnikov and Mikhail Gutseriev, landed in Dubai and were spotted last February and March in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
The planes recently registered in Dubai flew to Dubai World Central (DWC), the city’s newest airport and an alternative to Dubai International, where the vast majority of scheduled flights land. Called the “airport of the future” by the state-run Dubai airports, it is still in operation, and it appears that the only passenger flights it is currently receiving are seasonal charter flights offered by four Russian airlines of ‘ a variety of Russian cities.
Some yachts and planes have moved from Israel to Dubai. Newspapers do not stop at planes and yachts. There is a lot of talk about the good deals that real estate companies make with Russian rich people, who prefer to live in villas in the Jumeirah Bay area.
While these people benefit from Israel’s relations with the UAE, which guarantees their presence in the UAE, is that this country has refused to apply international sanctions against Russia, and is not fully committed to international banking procedures related to with the movement of funds, and therefore they have no worries about their investments In this country and stay for a long time.
And the case is not limited to the billionaires who started buying very expensive homes, but there are men of medium caliber who do not compete with the big whales, and they are happy with the rental of luxury homes. The New York Times reported that one of them rented a house for $ 15,000 a month.
These businessmen made their fortunes during the 1990s and 2000s, and because some of them are a pillar of the Russian economy or close to Putin, they have become easy targets for US and European sanctions.
These people come to Dubai to live after losing their positions in London, Paris, Italy and Germany, either because they own assets, companies and houses in the Emirates or to start new companies, and some buy real estate there.
Others still trade between the Emirates and Russia, dock in the ports of Tel Aviv and Dubai, or use airports for return flights from the Russian capital, which is a five-hour flight from Dubai. Everyone seeks to circumvent financial constraints, to compensate for the turmoil of the ruble, to protect their wealth and to avoid a freezing of their assets.
What Dubai is doing is not a product of the moment, but rather comes in the context of a strategic direction for the emirate for a long time, and therefore the entry of funds, without internationally recognized controls, poses no problem.
For decades, the UAE has been seen as a haven for suspicious funds by international organizations concerned with transparency, and these organizations say that the UAE has previously targeted Iran, North Korea and figures from the Syrian regime of the Assad and Makhlouf families. and Venezuela, has allowed, to avoid international sanctions, since the 1990s, and within this environment Tourism and Russian resettlement have been encouraged, and there are estimates that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russians currently living in the Emirates, benefit from administrative facilities such as exemption from tourist visas, or obtaining accommodation through investments, and there is information circulating that at least 76 properties are owned by Putin’s family members in Dubai.
And some of these Russian billionaires with dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, some of them Jews, have acquired Israeli citizenship over the past twenty years and regard Israel as a sanctuary in difficult times. Newcomers, in particular, benefit from a law that allows them not to disclose their income during a 10-year period.
French researcher Sebastien Bossoa, a doctor of political science and author of the book “The Emirates to Conquer the World”, is not optimistic about the possibility of imposing international sanctions on the Emirates, and commented on the results of meets the “Financial Action Group” by saying: “It will be very difficult because Westerners have common interests with The Emirates, starting with France, which has large military contracts … and none of the international powers are at this stage not ready for pressure. “
He explains the issue: “In fact, the UAE accepts everyone as long as there is a lot of capital. They have made it a habit to launder money and circumvent international sanctions,” and explains that there are many countries and leaders who have benefited from the UAE ‘s big washer ‘to hide corruption or circumvent sanctions. .
With dozens of free zones in which companies can be formed, with endless real estate projects to invest in discreetly, with accommodation and lodging facilities for investors, and very limited international judicial cooperation in the search for illegal flows, Dubai remains a favorite destination for the newly wealthy Russians , Therefore, it is now the “exit door” for Russia, which is being stifled by US and European sanctions, as the UAE has become much closer to Russia in recent years, as a result of the US withdrawal from the region.
Financial relations between the UAE and Russia are deep. Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Corporation has invested $ 3.6 billion in 50 Russian companies from 2022 onwards. At least two of those investments, worth about $ 400 million, have been linked to sanctioned Russian billionaires, and last December Mubadala acquired $ 1.9 million, which Mubadala spent $ 175 million on 2.6 per cent of the listed aluminum company En + Group, and its largest shareholder is sanctioned billionaire Oleg Deripaska.