2021 was another productive year for the UAEFIU. After our nation celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in December 2021, looking forward to the next half-century of prosperity and progress, key national institutions need to ensure the right conditions to allow the UAE’s economy to continue to flourish safely.
Amidst ongoing challenges to our financial system at home and abroad, the UAE is keen to shoulder its international responsibilities as a leading global financial centre, whose role is expanding further with the development of new fintech, green finance and other new lines of business. These investment opportunities bring associated challenges for the UAEFIU to consider, assess and address within its expanding role in the national financial governance framework.
As part of the UAE’s National AML/CFT Strategy and National Action Plan, the UAE strengthened its systems to combat financial crime by creating an Executive Office (EO) to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in February 2021. The EO is the primary national body coordinating AML/CFT efforts within the UAE, assisting related entities (including UAEFIU) to enable a strong, sustainable national AML/CFT structure. This demonstrates clearly the UAE’s political commitment to implement an effective system to deliver the requirements of the last FATF Mutual Evaluation Report in late 2020.
We enhanced the EO’s creation by confirming Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi as Head of the UAEFIU in April 2021. Mr. Ba’Alawi had been acting head of the Unit since March 2018, and brings over a decade of specialist experience to this role.
This allows the UAEFIU to move forward with a strong leader to develop the required plans and processes from a firm base.
I shall leave it to Ali to expand on the UAEFIU’s specific achievements in 2021, but I would like to mention two specific FIU successes domestically. Its agreements with the UAE Ministry of Community Development to coordinate AML/CFT efforts in the not-for-profit (charitable) sector, and with the Dubai Police General Command to establish a Joint Operations Room to combat money laundering crimes), are good practical examples of the UAEFIU converting important international policy objectives into practical crime prevention measures.
In conclusion, the UAEFIU has a critical AML/CFT role to perform for the nation, as the UAE offers an increasingly attractive investment environment, a secure home for funds and bank accounts, and a forward-looking trading nation at the forefront of technology. I am sure that it will continue to enhance its capabilities as an important part of the UAE’s financial infrastructure, defending the nation from AML/CFT threats and working with its regional and international partners as an integrated part of global financial markets. I thank everyone at UAEFIU for their hard work on this important task during 2021, and ask for their renewed dedication to national and international AML/CFT issues in 2022 and beyond.
H.E. Khaled Mohamed Balama
International Cooperation Section (ICS)
The ease with which people and financial resources can cross national borders makes international coordination and cooperation a critical element in the global fight against money laundering, terrorist finance and associated crimes (ML/TF). To strengthen and support international efforts to tackle the crimes of money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/TF), the UAEFIU expanded its collaboration and coordination with counterpart FIUs and other international stakeholders throughout 2021.
The UAEFIU is tasked with gathering and exchanging information on suspicious transaction reports (STRs) or any other information which the FIU has the power to obtain or access, directly or indirectly, according to the international agreements to which the UAE is a party or any MOU(s) that the FIU has entered into with counterparts to regulate their cooperation, or on the condition of reciprocity.
The UAEFIU has been an active member of the Egmont Group2 since joining on 5 June 2002. It follows up on developments relating to ML/TF crimes through relevant regional and international organisations and bodies, and participates in related meetings.
- Enhanced its international standing and cooperation with foreign Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), in line with its strategic objectives, demonstrating the effectiveness of the UAE’s anti money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) system as a whole.
- Signed eight MOUs with strategic jurisdictions in 2021 to exchange ML/TF-related financial intelligence. It seeks to conclude more MoUs to enhance international cooperation, and will consider partner organisations regardless of their Egmont member status, often using MOUs as a foundation for international cooperation with non-Egmont member countries.
- Conducted 61 meetings with international stakeholders (including Egmont Group) to enhance the Bilateral Dialogue for Cooperation with partner FIUs. These promoted the timely sharing of high quality financial intelligence and information of common interest, identified trends and typologies and discussed joint strategies to mitigate risks of mutual concern.
- Received 727 requests for information and 196 spontaneous disclosures, and sent 285 requests for information and 100 spontaneous disclosures through its ICS team.
- Reviewed its performance, by sending surveys to the top 25 counterpart FIUs to measure the effectiveness of their information exchanges. The results revealed significant, actionable findings on information-related results, quality and timelines.
October 6, 2022 Published by The UAE Financial Intelligence Unit Annual Report. (Download Report PDF)