The Chair of the UAE's Higher Committee on Anti-Money Laundering has stated that the country is making "encouraging progress" in combating financial crime.
The UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stated that the country's goal was to be ranked first in the World Bank's annual ease of doing business index.
Sheikh Al Nahyan wrote in an opinion piece for Forbes Middle East that an "array of reforms focused on improving the ease of doing business" were already "well underway," including attracting foreign investors, creating jobs, and expanding the country's economy away from oil.
"But rapid growth and globalisation can also bring risk, as well as opportunity," Sheikh Al Nahyan warned. The UAE currently hosts two "top-30 international financial centers," both of which are "growing quickly," according to Sheikh Al Nahyan.
"As with all global financial centres, the UAE economy must combat the threat of organised crime, fraud, money laundering and corruption. This is a growing issue for all major economies, and it’s one we in the UAE take extremely seriously, " he added.
"IIllicit finance poses a threat to the UAE’s international reputation and to the integrity of our world-leading financial sector," Sheikh Al Nahyan said, despite the UAE's "tiny proportion" of the estimated global figure of $800 trillion in money laundering.
"Our collective goal is to tackle this… Technology and globalisation have assisted us in many ways, but they have also provided opportunities for criminals around the world, " he added.
"Our interconnected, modern global financial system needs to be protected," Sheikh Al Nahyan said.
The aim of the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy on AML/CFT's according to Sheikh Al Nahyan, is to "increase the UAE’s effectiveness at combating financial crime."
He explained that the "scale and complexity of the situation requires active partnership between government and industry" which is why the Committee is "breaking down silos that trap valuable information, making it easier to share knowledge across financial institutions, regulators and law enforcement agencies," according to him.
He emphasized that the UAE is working to prevent, detect, and discourage illegal acts in the financial system by working "more coherently together" to provide "unique information on specific illicit actos, or trends across financial institutions and sectors."
"advanced analytics, technology, investigation and public-private partnership to sharpen [their] collective defences," he said. In addition, the UAE collaborates closely with international partners.
The UAE's financial crime authorities will continue to conduct "economy-wide risk assessments" on money laundering and terrorist financing, according to Sheikh Al Nahyan.
Since May 2021, high-risk sectors have been reporting to a "federally-managed anti-money laundering reporting system," and that the country is "significantly investing in the UAE's financial crime capabilities".
Financial institutions, accountants, auditors, precious metals and stone dealers, and real estate brokers must now monitor and report suspicious transactions. A "comprehensive database of beneficial ownership" on UAE entities is also available to UAE law enforcement.
These advancements, according to Sheikh Al Nahyan, are "helping to join dots across the economy quickly and effectively"
"The UAE Financial Intelligence Unit… has doubled staffing levels," Sheikh Al Nahyan said, adding that money laundering cases had a 94 percent conviction rate in 243 cases from 2019 to 2021.
The good news is that the UAE is "already making strong progress" he says. "By continuing with our disciplined approach, we will enact a true step change in our ability to prevent illicit financial flows and realise our goal of making the UAE one of the strongest and most respected economies in the modern world," he said.
By fLEXI tEAM