UAE engages onshore, offshore financial institutions to combat money laundering, terrorist financing

ABU DHABI – Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State, alongside Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, Bryan Stirewalt, Chief Executive, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and Emmanuel Givanakis, Chief Executive, Financial Services Regulatory Authority of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), brought together key supervisory and regulatory bodies with financial institutions to discuss the importance of public-private engagement in operating a sophisticated international financial crime compliance regime.

The two dedicated sessions – one focusing on offshore financial institutions, the other onshore financial institutions – discussed the UAE’s AML/CFT framework and practical actions to improve public-private sector collaboration in this space. Led by the UAE government authorities, more than 700 private sector constituents gathered to share valuable insights and obtain the latest information on the UAE’s enhanced AML/CFT compliance regime, including key AML/CFT risk areas, regulatory and enforcement developments and the importance of enhanced engagement between the public and private sectors to prevent financial crime.

Chief Executives and senior risk and compliance officials from hundreds of the UAE’s leading financial institutions attended the sessions alongside government participants from the Central Bank of the UAE, the Executive Office for AML/CFT, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Securities and Commodities Authority, DFSA, AGDM, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

At the sessions, Al Sayegh and H.E. Balama, alongside other representatives, underscored that the pervasive and evolving nature of financial crime requires mobilising the unique roles, resources, strengths, and experience of the public and private sectors. The event reiterated that it is only through the collective efforts of government, regulators, law enforcement, the judiciary and financial and non-financial businesses that the UAE – and the world – can effectively respond to the threat of financial crime. Firms and government entities across the UAE have made substantial investments in recent years, directing resources to the development of financial crime expertise and elevating the importance of public-private partnerships as part of a holistic anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) framework.

The objective of the UAE’s engagement with onshore and offshore financial institutions focus on the monitoring, reporting and analysis of suspicious activity through the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) regime, the corporate registries, and other information-sharing channels. It is also conveyed supervisory expectations on regulated firms to develop an analytical and investigative compliance function that is well-positioned and properly resourced to report such suspicious activity to the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) for analysis. By forming closer ties between public and private entities, the UAE can ensure that data received from the private sector is accurate, complete and actionable to assist all agencies – from the supervisory authorities to the judiciary – in their collective fight against illicit finance.

Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, UAE Minister of State, said: “An effective system to combat money laundering and terrorist financing begins with an active and engaged partnership between the public and private sectors. Banks have made an unprecedented level of investment in both people and IT from an AML/CFT perspective. The UAE government has similarly invested significantly in its law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence unit. By working closely together we will be much more effective in safeguarding the integrity of the UAE and the international financial system. That is why we have convened these sessions. We want to promote public-private partnership. In doing so, we want everybody to know the important role that our business and financial community plays in protecting us from the threats of money laundering and terrorist financing.”

Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, said: “We have set our sights on the anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism agenda for the interest of the UAE economy. It is our responsibility to strengthen partnerships between the public and private sectors to safeguard our financial system, and we are pleased to participate in this event, which aims to discuss and exchange views on important topics and trends for the private sector. At the Central Bank, we are keen to put in place frameworks and regulations to reduce financial irregularities, and I can only stress the importance of the continuation of this partnership between the two sectors to achieve our common goals.”

Bryan Stirewalt, Chief Executive, DFSA, commented: “The establishment of trust and confidence between the public and private sectors is fundamental in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, so these sessions are both timely and welcome. The scale and complexity of financial crime has increased in recent times, and this requires a collaborative effort to combat financial criminals. The UAE’s awareness and understanding of financial crime is also increasing, requiring additional efforts to connect stakeholders in the public and private sectors, particularly in world-class financial hubs like the Dubai International Financial Centre.”

The Private Sector Outreach sessions were organized and held in close collaboration with the UAE’s Executive Office for AML/CFT. The UAE Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, established the Executive Office for AML/CFT to oversee the implementation of the UAE’s National AML/CFT Strategy and National Action Plan (NAP), the program of reforms designed to strengthen the UAE’s anti-financial crime system.

The Executive Office’s responsibilities include:

  • Improving national and international coordination and cooperation on AML/CFT issues at the policy and operational levels.
  • Tackling money laundering and terrorist financing threats by working with regional and international groups, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Working Group on AML-CFT, G20, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This is done in conjunction with the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organizations (NAMLCFTC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC).
  • Actively increasing information sharing between law enforcement agencies, supervisors, and the private sector.
  • Exploring and enhancing legislation, in coordination with MoFAIC and relevant UAE entities, to further strengthen the UAE’s current AML/CFT framework.
  • Coordinating with MoFAIC in ensuring that progress is accurately articulated and reflected to the Higher Committee on AML/CFT under the mandate of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.


By Hatem Mohamed, June 15, 2021, published on WAM

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