Dubai is the anchorage of the Russian “oligarchs”… a dirty money laundering paradise

Dubai is a favorite destination for wealthy 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 will lead to a confrontation can lead between Washington and Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.

Diplomats believe that it will not be too late for the United States to pressure the UAE and Israel to confiscate and freeze Russian assets, and it cannot remain indifferent to the movement of Western public opinion against businessmen close to the Kremlin, such as Oleg Deripaska, whose house 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 doors to businessmen and owners of great fortunes who are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland issued something of a warning to Israel: “We don’t want this to become 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 last March from 1 to 4, where the UAE was placed on the “grey list” of countries for a must be monitored for illegal financing for a full year, 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 that the UAE authorities should plug loopholes in the real estate and precious metals sectors, which can be exploited by money laundering professionals. And he leaked about 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 sees as 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 took place after photos of private planes and yachts owned by businessmen from the lining of the Russian president began to appear on the pages of Western newspapers, anchored in Dubai airports and ports, after they came out under the sanctions escaped custody. laws imposed by the United States on these The class known as “the oligarchs”, a group of billionaires whose number does not exceed fifty, who are united by the fact that they are close to Putin, part of the Russian economy, 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 unsanctioned nickel tycoon, Vladimir Potanin. There is a third yacht, “Titan”, worth $82 million, owned by 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 have been seen docking 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 with 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 tracked in Dubai or Abu Dhabi last February and March.

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-owned Dubai Airports, this airport is still in operation, and it appears that the only passenger flights it currently receives are seasonal charter flights, offered by four Russian airlines from ‘ 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 rich Russians, who prefer to live in villas in the Jumeirah Bay area.

While these people benefit from the relations that Israel has with the UAE, which guarantees their presence in the UAE, 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.

The matter is not limited to the billionaires who started buying very expensive houses, but there are men of medium caliber who do not compete with the big whales, and they are content with renting luxury houses. 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 are 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 establish new companies, and some buy real estate there.

Others still trade between the UAE and Russia, docking at the ports of Tel Aviv and Dubai, or using airports for return flights from the Russian capital, which is a five-hour flight from Dubai. All seek to circumvent financial restrictions, to compensate for the volatility of the ruble, protect their wealth and avoid a freeze on their assets.

What Dubai is doing is not a product of the moment. Rather, it comes in the context of a strategic direction for the emirate for a long time. Therefore, the entry of funds, without internationally recognized controls, represents no problem.

For decades, the UAE has been considered a haven for suspicious funds by international organizations concerned with transparency, and these organizations say that the UAE has previously supported Iran, North Korea and figures from the Syrian regime of the Assad and Makhlouf families, and Venezuela, have allowed, to avoid international sanctions, since the nineties of the last century, and within this environment Tourism and Russian resettlement have been encouraged, and there are estimates that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russians currently live in the UAE, which benefit from administrative facilities such as exemption from tourist visas, or obtaining residency through investments, and there is information circulating that at least 76 properties are owned by Putin’s family members in Dubai.

Some of these Russian billionaires with dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, some of them Jewish, have acquired Israeli citizenship over the past 20 years and view Israel as a sanctuary in troubled times. Newcomers in particular benefit from a law that allows them not to disclose their income over a period of 10 years.

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 applying international sanctions to the Emirates, and commented on the results of met the “Financial Action Group” by saying: “It will be very difficult because Westerners have common interests with The Emirates, starting with France, which has major military contracts… and none of the international powers at this point ready for print.”

He explains the issue: “In fact, the UAE accepts everyone as long as there is a lot of capital. They have made a habit of laundering money and circumventing international sanctions,” explaining that there are many countries and leaders who have benefited from the UAE ‘s “big launderer” to hide corruption or circumvent sanctions. .

With dozens of free zones in which to set up companies, with endless real estate projects to invest in discreetly, with accommodation and lodging facilities for investors, and very limited international judicial cooperation in the pursuit of illegal flows, Dubai remains a favorite destination for the newly rich Russians , Therefore, it is now the “exit door” for Russia, which is stifled by American and European sanctions, because the UAE has become much closer to Russia in recent years, due to the American 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. At least two of those investments, worth about $400 million, are linked to sanctioned Russian billionaires, and last December Mubadala acquired 1.9 which Mubadala spent $175 million to buy 2.6 a year. cent of listed aluminum company En+ Group, and its largest shareholder is sanctioned billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

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