Authorities warned that regional criminal networks are generally connected with criminal organizations whose operational bases are in Latin America and Europe. Emirates police officers work on their computers at Dubai Police Command and Control Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
While the military conflict generated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to occupy international attention, several Arab Sunni states continue to work on the fight against criminal networks connected with transnational terrorist organizations and criminal networks, many of them based in Latin America.
The outstanding case in this regard is that the authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this week promoted the official creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office for cases of drug trafficking and money laundering in the framework of the combat and repression of networks that have proliferated in their territory since the beginning of 2020.
Over the past six months, the Emirati press office of the Attorney General’s Office, which is currently conducting investigations against money-laundering, reported that between December 2021 and 25 March of this year, it had implemented dozens of trials that resulted in effective convictions and the dismantling of drug networks. criminals with ramifications in different countries of the world. The work of the Office of the Prosecutor General has now been referred to the team of the new Special Prosecutor’s Office composed of several security and intelligence agencies.
Created by Decree of the Emirati Royal House for the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism in mid-2021, the Special Prosecutor’s Office began to operate fully as such this week.
The exponential growth of laundering activities in the UAE generated the need to combat these crimes much more actively, several networks were discovered in times of isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic; it was at that time that the prosecutors under the Attorney General’s Office carried out a large number of investigations into dozens of cases in which the Executive Office for the Fight against Laundering is working, which was subsequently referred to the financing of terrorist organizations. During 2021, Emirati judicial officials detected assets worth $850 million in their financial and banking system originating from drug trafficking operations that were confiscated.
According to a statement from the judicial proceedings office that cooperates with the fight against financial crimes, in the first three months of 2022, 410 million of the US currency was frozen and the work system proved highly effective in identifying and preventing criminal financial activities in which the Emirates counted on the cooperation of regional and international Arab allies.
The Director-General of the Executive Office for Combating Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, Hamid Al-Zabi, told the local press that, both in the financing of terrorist activities and laundering, the UAE is carrying out expeditious and comprehensive preventive measures to neutralize the actions of regional criminal networks generally connected with criminal organizations whose operational bases are in Latin America and Europe. In this regard, he stressed that Europol and other European anti-drug and financial crime control agencies are actively collaborating with their agencies.
Al-Zabi did not say the same thing about Latin America, clarifying that it is a new region for them, but I appreciate the support of some countries that are working together with the Emirates, highlighting Uruguay, Paraguay and Colombia; although he stated that he would like the support and collaboration of more countries in South America, where he said: “We know that there is activity of criminal networks that we fight in our country.” I also declare that I have established contact with other Latin American countries, but that so far they have not responded. In the direction of such cooperation, Al-Zabi pointed out that this is a point that the Emirates considers highly important given that its policies to combat these crimes detected active Latin American networks associated with criminals who trade drugs in Europe and try to introduce their millionaire profits into the UAE financial system and violate the rules of the legal system on laundering by using the Emirates as a route to transfer the funds of its criminal activity.
As part of the fight against these crimes, the UAE Ministry of Defense signed an agreement for more than $450 million in the purchase of Unmanned Systems. The agreement is the largest ever signed for the purchase of drone systems that will help control its borders in the fight against regional drug trafficking, which will help the forces on the ground and also the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s Office to combat criminal networks that trade synthetic drugs within the UAE. In this scenario, the Emirates is the country that is having the most success in the region in combating drug trafficking networks from Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon; those that today manage the drug market in the area, generating millions in profits for traffickers, who through complex operations try to penetrate their banking circuit .
Also during this week, local security forces, together with the new Special Prosecutor’s Office, carried out an operation that resulted in the kidnapping of $85 million in assets resulting from the sale of cocaine in Spain and Germany last February. The network was coordinated by one Emirati citizen and two Syrians. The three were immediately arrested and extradited to the US pursuant to an Interpol red circular on the detainees, one of whom has already pleaded guilty to laundering in a US court and there is speculation that he will serve a 20-year prison sentence. Emirates officials did not identify the deportees because the investigation is ongoing and as Infobae found with Emirati sources requesting anonymity, there are four suspects residing in Brazil and Paraguay who have connections in Bolivia, from where cocaine that passes through Paraguay and Argentina to reach European ports and airports before the money from such transactions attempts to be placed in the Emirati financial system.
The last measure to combat these crimes was taken on Wednesday by the UAE Ministry of the Interior, which established a joint mechanism with the local Financial Intelligence Unit to coordinate the fight against laundering resulting from the financing of terrorist groups and illicit networks in the NGO sector. by the ministry indicates the agency’s strong cooperation with the Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Financial Intelligence Unit (UAE FIU) and facilitates the exchange of information in relation to cases of laundering and financing terrorist groups. The results have been highly positive in the fight against illicit networks identified and neutralized in a few months.
The United Arab Emirates is the second largest economy in the Arab world, its regulatory framework is extremely strict in terms of prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism; the UAE has issued a series of regulations in recent months to suppress financial crime by forming a model for its neighbors of the Gulf who have been suffering from trafficking and laundering by terrorist organizations such as the Taliban from Afghanistan and Hezbollah from Lebanon.
The UAE Financial Intelligence Unit works closely with the authorities of the Special Prosecutor’s Office playing a very active role in protecting money from private donors and NGOs from the risks of being referred to financing terrorism by criminal organizations, said current FIU chief Ali Faisal Alawi in his recent trip to Saudi Arabia to collaborate on the implementation of the Emirati FIU model in Riyadh.
Thus, the UAE confirms its commitment to international standards to combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons issued by the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In this regard, the standards followed by the FIU constitute aspects of central supervision for the authorities responsible for control.
Counter-terrorism and money-laundering operations have also intensified in the Emirates through extradition agreements signed with several Western countries. Under these agreements, more than 140 international fugitives were brought to justice during 2021 and another 23 members of criminal networks were captured so far in 2022. This work carried out by the Emirates, together with the cooperation of Western governments and international agencies such as Interpol and other organizations fighting organized crime, is reflected in the numbers of extraditions established by the UAE between 2020 and 2021, which increased by almost 300%. This marks a new era of powerful international cooperation against financial crime in the Sunni Arab Gulf states.
April 2, 2022 Published by The Infobae.