Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

UAE froze $123m in assets linked to crime in 2022

The UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit says it has made 'clear progress' in fighting financial crime Dubai Tourism
The UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit says it has made 'clear progress' in fighting financial crime
  • ‘Freeze orders’ used in nine cases
  • Individuals and companies hit
  • Progress against UAE’s ‘key threats’

The UAE froze assets valued at AED 452.5 million ($123 million) in 2022 related to crimes such as money laundering and financing of terrorism, new data shows.

The UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), a special unit of the UAE Central Bank, released its annual report this week and revealed that it conducted “freeze orders” targeting 38 individuals and 41 corporate entities across nine separate cases.

The report did not disclose figures for 2023.

Khaled Mohamed Balama, chairman of the UAE’s National Anti Money Laundering and Combatting Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Illegal Organizations Committee, told the report that the UAE has made “clear progress” in the protection of global financial integrity, peace and security.

He said the Gulf state is “rapidly developing a proven track record of responding robustly to changing circumstances”.

Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi, chief of the FIU, added that the unit has made significant investment in its “technology, people and processes” to disrupt and deter money laundering, terrorist finance and associated crimes.

“This has led to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the key threats the UAE faces, which has enhanced our ability to make informed decisions about those threats and, importantly, respond to them in an extensive and dynamic way.”

The Gulf state has intensified its efforts to clamp down on illicit financial flows, since it was put on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list in March 2022. 

Paris-based FATF is an international watchdog that monitors compliance with rules on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.

Being placed on the FATF’s grey list can have far-reaching consequences, including increased scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions worldwide, potentially affecting the country’s investment climate and economic growth. 

AGBI previously reported that UK banks are shutting the accounts of some British expatriates in their home country on the grounds that the FATF listing means they are classed as living in a high-risk jurisdiction.

Mazen Boustany, partner and head of the UAE financial regulatory practice at Baker McKenzie UAE, said enforcement measures have been “stringent” against financial institutions, including banks and insurance companies, for violating money laundering systems and controls.

Entities involved in enforcing include the Central Bank, Securities and Commodities Authority, Dubai Financial Services Authority and Financial Services Regulatory Authority.

Boustany noted that the UAE has also rigorously scrutinised virtual asset service providers, categorising them as financial institutions or “designated non-financial businesses and professions”, as well as adopted strict measures against proliferation financing and dual-use items.

“This meticulous approach has significantly reduced the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing,” Boustany said.

“Notably the real estate sector faces heightened scrutiny, necessitating the submission of real estate activity reports to the FIU for transactions involving cash or crypto-currencies.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a new set of headaches for UAE-based financial institutions in light of the extensive global sanctions imposed on Moscow and the subsequent movement of capital into the Emirates.

The UAE has remained neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, keeping open dialogue and business links with Moscow.

As of 2022, 700 Russian companies were established in the UAE while the number of real estate investors grew – as did the number of real estate agencies set up by Russians.

Russians purchased real estate in the UAE worth $500 million last year and tourist numbers surged 60 percent to 1.2 million visits.

Trade between Russia and the UAE, which stands at about $9 billion, increased by 63 percent between January and September last year.

Latest articles

Opec Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais says peak oil 'is not on the horizon'

Upstream oil and gas ‘needs more annual investment’

Annual capital expenditure for exploration and production in the upstream sector of the oil industry needs to increase by 22 percent by 2030 because of growing demand and cost inflation, experts say. A cumulative $4.3 trillion needs to be invested between 2025 and 2030, according to a report by the International Energy Forum (IEF) and […]

Turkey foreign property sales

Foreigners turning back on Turkish real estate

Foreign buyers are increasingly shunning the Turkish property market, wary of high prices, the expensive cost of living and a less welcoming environment for overseas real estate investors. There were only 2,064 residential units sold to foreign buyers in May, 35 percent down on the same month last year, data issued by the state statistics […]

2KEY8G1 Emirates Airline Airbus A380 aircraft landing. Aerial view of Emirates Airlines A380-800 airplane. An Emirates plane coming in to land at LAX; a spokesperson for Emirates said the contraventions were for safety reasons

US fines Emirates for operating in prohibited airspace

Emirates has been fined $1.5 million by the US Transportation Department for operating flights carrying JetBlue Airways’ JBLU.O designator code in prohibited airspace. The transportation department said that between December 2021 and August 2022, Emirates operated a significant number of flights carrying the JetBlue Airways code between the United Arab Emirates and the United States […]

Egypt will use the US funding across a range of sectors including agriculture

US allocates $130m development funding to Egypt

The US has allocated funding of $130 million for a range of developmental projects in Egypt, it was announced on Thursday. In a press release published by the US Embassy in Cairo, ambassador Herro Mustafa Garg said that the money would go towards “advancing Egyptian efforts to achieve a brighter, healthier, and more prosperous future […]