Huge global problem, small UAE improvement

February 10, 2011

Just like last year, the United Arab Emirates has reported a significant increase in the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) submitted by companies to the central bank (hat tip to AML-CFT blog).  The National reported on Jan. 31 that it’s not clear whether the increase means companies are being more vigilant or if money laundering has actually increased.

It probably is a signal of actual improvement in AML practices; nevertheless, the improvement is still overshadowed by:  1) the continued financial survival of the Taliban, 2) a slight but apparent financial rebound by Al Qaeda, and by 3) the continued reports of illicit cash passing back and forth between Kabul and Dubai.  Here’s The National’s account:

Financial companies reported 55 per cent more suspicious money transfers to the UAE Central Bank last year compared to 2009, the head of the regulator’s anti-money laundering unit said today.

The Central Bank received 2,711 tip-offs from insurers, banks, investment companies and other financial services firms last year, said Abdulrahim Mohamed al Awadi, an executive director and the head of the anti-money laundering and suspicious cases unit. That compared to 1,750 reports in 2009.

The rise “shows the effectiveness” of efforts to educate financial firms about their responsibilities to report suspicious financial activity, Mr al Awadi said. It was not clear, however, whether the rise was due to increased vigilance or an upturn in money-laundering activity.

Moves to track and prosecute money laundering propagated globally following the terrorist attacks on the US of September 11, 2001 as nations including the UAE enacted laws and increased monitoring of transactions suspected of financing terrorism. The UAE passed a Federal law in 2002 covering the detection and reporting of suspicious transactions.

“You all have a responsibility in partnership with the regulators in ensuring that the UAE financial system stays clean and protected from being abused by criminals, money launderers and terrorist financiers,” he told a seminar for insurers and insurance brokers.

The seminar was the first of a series planned this year for the insurance, banking and investment sectors to update executives on developments in international money-laundering reporting rules. As part of the GCC, the UAE is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, a global body that aims to stamp out terrorist financing and money laundering.

Insurance companies in the UAE have long been identifying and reporting suspicious transactions, Mr al Awadi said, but “they have to understand further what are the obligations required under the best practices worldwide.”

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