1.1 billion dirhams confiscation of money laundering crimes 2021

The UAE has made great strides in improving its approach to combating money laundering and terrorist financing, in line with global standards and its commitment to combating financial crime as a national priority.

The Executive Office for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing has revealed that the value of the confiscated assets in 2021 was $ 625 million (about 2.3 billion dirhams), including about 1.1 billion dirhams in money laundering crimes. 175 million dirhams in cash and other assets, the main suspects were handed over to the United States with the support of the Department of the Interior after the issuance of an Interpol red notice, and the principal pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to the money laundering crime.

In terms of oversight and implementation, fines for non-compliance with the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing last year amounted to $ 64 million (about 234.9 million dirhams).

According to data released during a virtual press conference to highlight the latest developments in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, $ 109 million (about 400 million dirhams) has been confiscated as preventative measures to combat terrorist financing in 2021.

technical compliance

During the press conference, Hamid Al Zaabi, Director – General of the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Office, stated that the Financial Action Task Force has published a detailed report on technical compliance in the UAE to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and the “its effectiveness” “in April 2020, and after the adoption of this report, the UAE entered the UAE within a 12-month observation period.

“We recently provided a 500-page report to the Financial Action Task Force showing the progress and efficiency achieved over the last period, and a meeting was held with its relevant regional bodies to review the progress made in this area. of money laundering. money laundering and terrorist financing in the UAE, ”he said.

Speaking at the FATF plenary session, he said: “We are confident that the compliance, improvements and efficiency we have achieved will provide a lot of evidence to FATF members to consider, but we do not currently know the outcome of the plenary session. , we also do not know how members of the FATF will vote Financial Action Group in that session.

He continued: “The comments received so far from a wide range of FATF members regarding the progress we have made have been generally positive, while acknowledging that many areas of improvement in the UAE are long-term. – and sustainable efforts, which will again take time until it bears fruit. ”

Emirati dedication

Al Zaabi said: “The significant progress made in improving the UAE’s approach to combating money laundering and terrorist financing aims to meet international standards and is a testament to our strong commitment to combating this. global problem. “

He stated that the UAE had been committed for several years and was contributing to the global fight against financial crime, pointing out that there was a very effective system in place to identify and prevent terrorists and other criminal activities, in cooperation with international partners.

Regarding the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, he said: “We are taking swift action to prevent criminal offenses, and this is not new to us, but it is also an issue that we continue to take very seriously. “

He stressed that the UAE is strongly committed to combating money laundering and terrorist financing, as the country’s policies and strategies contribute to the detection and deterrence of financial crimes, and the UAE also prevents the abuse of its territory as a transit route. or to transfer funds arising from any criminal activity, and seek to fully implement the criteria of the Financial Action Group (FATF).

He said: “We in the Executive Office for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing represent the main national coordinating body for efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing within the country, and we have a broad mandate to assist the relevant authorities in to improve the effectiveness of the implementation of the national plan to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. “

comprehensive format

The responsibilities of the Executive Office, according to Al Zaabi, include the development of national and international coordination and cooperation on issues of combating money laundering and terrorist financing at the political and operational levels, as well as addressing the threats of money laundering and terrorist financing by works with regional and international groups, such as the Gulf Action Group to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing and the Group of Twenty Financial Action Groups.

He said: “We are working closely with all the competent authorities in the country to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Economy, the Central Bank of the Emirates, the Finance “Information Unit, Ministry of the Interior, Customs, Ministry of Justice, State Security and the Ministry of Justice.

He reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to developing a strong regulatory framework and providing a safe environment for organizations and companies to operate in accordance with international best practices, with minimal risks to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

local and international cooperation

He considered working with government agencies to combat money laundering as a national duty, a moral act, a legal requirement and an economic necessity that would protect business and investment and contribute to their growth and prosperity.

Al Zaabi indicated that the supervisory authorities, law enforcement agencies, judicial authorities and special authorities in the UAE work together within a national strategy and an established system, supported by the highest level of strategic priority by our leadership.

A moral obligation

He explained that the UAE pursues the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing for a number of reasons, the most important of which is related to the fact that the fight against these criminal activities is a moral obligation that reflects our country’s determination to create a safe operating environment for international companies to insure. pointing out that the strengthening of the objectives of combating money laundering and terrorist financing at all levels of government is being done by the committee. The Supreme Council oversees the national strategy to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, led by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, reflecting the priority of this issue for the UAE. The relevant ministers also follow up on the progress made in this regard and submit their reports to the Supreme Committee to improve accountability and identify areas for better improvement.

economic center

The second reason, according to Al Zaabi, is related to the fact that the UAE is investing in remaining a leading economic center in the region and globally by developing a stable and strong legal approach in line with international standards and opportunities available in the region.

The third reason relates to global standards, which indicate that the UAE is subject to review by the Financial Action Task Force to verify that it complies with international standards related to money laundering, terrorist financing, arms proliferation and other related threats.

He continued, “The Financial Action Task Force in 2020 provided us with constructive comments on how to improve the framework for combating money laundering and terrorist financing and the rules and controls on which it is based.”

“It is our priority to have tangible evidence of effective results, and the authorities are using all available resources to investigate and punish criminals and seize their illegal profits,” al-Zaabi said.

He emphasized working with international partners to understand the key risks and emerging patterns. Last September, the UAE agreed to a historic partnership to tackle illegal financial flows with the UK. The UAE also holds regular workshops with European Union and United Kingdom authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, customs and regulatory agencies, and tax authorities.

Increase human resources

Al-Zaabi spoke about the technology and resources adopted to serve the strategy’s objectives in the fight against money laundering, and pointed out that the Financial Information Unit, for example, has increased its human resources by more than 85% since 2019. , and invested. in a range of technological solutions. Trainings and programs were also conducted. AML / CFT education with international partners, hundreds of professionals working with 36 federal and local competent authorities in the UAE, undergo training courses to obtain the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist certification.

Al-Zaabi spoke on the GoAML platform, as an analytical tool to help the Financial Information Unit more efficiently evaluate suspicious transaction reports, and on the “ForiTech” smart money laundering issues collection system of various federal and local authorities, and facilitating communication between them, with the aim of identifying red flags in Transactions and other data, and on the Unified Register (NER), created by the Ministry of Economy to integrate government data and access to comprehensive information on business sectors to make possible.

Hundreds of cases

During the briefing, Al Zaabi indicated that there are hundreds of ongoing cases being pursued by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in the UAE, and some of these cases have been covered by a large group of authorities.

He said: “Based on coordination between the UAE Financial Information Unit, the Federal Customs Authority and the Public Prosecutor in Dubai, Dubai courts have convicted 8 individuals and 3 companies on charges of electronic fraud and money laundering, including imprisonment, deportation and multiple fines. of 14 million dirhams. “

He continued, “In addition, the Central Bank has imposed a fine of more than 17.31 million dirhams ($ 4.71 million) on some companies in 2021 for violating anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules.”

Inspections

Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of the Office for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, said: “Last year, the Ministry of Economy’s Money Laundering Department completed 329 full-scale inspections for regulated companies, including metals, gems, real estate agents and corporate service providers, and more will be inspected in 2022. In 2022, inspections include workplace visits, review of policies and procedures, and other relevant documents, interviews with key entities within entities, sample file testing, and suspicious transaction report reviews. .

The Ministry of Economy completed the risk assessment of key sectors, in accordance with the FATF methodology, and in November 2021 it approved the STRIX Risk Assessment Program to gather comprehensive information obtained from 40 records in the UAE.

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