ABU DHABI- The UAE is embarking on ambitious growth-focused reforms aimed at improving the ease of doing business, attracting foreign investors, creating jobs and diversifying the economy away from oil, said H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
He added that the country is also committed to combating the threat of organized crime, fraud, money laundering and corruption.
This came in an opinion article written by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Forbes Middle East magazine.
Sheikh Abdullah wrote: "An array of reforms focused on improving the ease of doing business attracting foreign investors, creating jobs and diversifying the economy away from oil are already well underway. We are making encouraging progress." As with all global financial centres, he continued, the UAE economy must combat the threat of organised crime, fraud, money laundering and corruption. This is a growing issue for all major economies, and it is one we in the UAE take extremely seriously, H.H. noted.
Below is the full text of the article: Since merchants first exchanged goods along the Silk Road 1,500 years ago, the people of the land we now know as the United Arab Emirates have always been actively engaged with the world around us.
This is evident today in both the makeup of the UAE’s economy and its international outlook.
The UAE ranks in 16th position globally in the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business index out of 190 countries.
Our ambition is to be number one.
An array of reforms focused on improving the ease of doing business attracting foreign investors, creating jobs and diversifying the economy away from oil are already well underway.
We are making encouraging progress.
We already host two top-30 international financial centres and these are growing quickly.
But rapid growth and globalization can also bring risk, as well as opportunity.
As with all global financial centres, the UAE economy must combat the threat of organised crime, fraud, money laundering and corruption. This is a growing issue for all major economies, and it’s one we in the UAE take extremely seriously.
The UN estimates that the amount of money laundered globally in one year is 2-5% of global GDP, or $800 billion to $2 trillion.
Although the UAE represents a tiny proportion of this huge global sum, illicit finance poses a threat to the UAE’s international reputation and to the integrity of our world-leading financial sector.
Our collective goal is to tackle this.
Technology and globalization have assisted us in many ways, but they have also provided opportunities for criminals around the world. While centuries ago, merchants may have exchanged single bronze coins, now 42 million electronic payments flash around the world every single day.
Our interconnected, modern global financial system needs to be protected.
That is why I lead the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT). Our objective is simple: to increase the UAE’s effectiveness at combating financial crime.
To do that, we operate around five clear principles.
First, we recognize the scale and complexity of the situation requires active partnership between government and industry. That is why we are breaking down silos that trap valuable information, making it easier to share knowledge across financial institutions, regulators and law enforcement agencies.
Second, we have a common goal across the economy of preventing, detecting and deterring illicit activity in the financial system.
For example, government intelligence can often provide unique information on specific illicit actors, or trends across financial institutions and sectors, but without the specific transaction details. Financial institutions can see payment flows within their firms but lack detailed information on illicit actors or trends across other financial institutions. Working more coherently together benefits all involved. And that is exactly what we are doing.
Third, we are using advanced analytics, technology, investigation and public-private partnership to sharpen our collective defences. This is enabling our experts to join dots in real time, applying their judgement quickly to complex themes and fast emerging patterns.
Fourth, we are working closely and collaboratively with international partners.
In September 2021, UAE Minister of State Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh signed a first of its kind partnership to tackle illicit financial flows with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. Enhanced intelligence sharing and joint operations are already delivering notable successes.
Fifth, we continue to conduct economy-wide risk assessments on money laundering and terrorist financing. Alongside this, we are significantly investing in the UAE’s financial crime capabilities. Sectors at higher risk of financial abuse, such as gold trading and real estate, have been comprehensively moved onto the federally-managed anti money laundering reporting system since May last year.
Financial institutions, accountants, auditors, dealers in precious metals and stones, and property brokers are all now each required to monitor and report suspicious transactions. Law enforcement also has access to a comprehensive database of beneficial ownership on UAE entities. Again, this is helping to join dots across the economy quickly and effectively.
Similarly, the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit, which assesses suspicious activity reports with a view to launching investigations, has doubled staffing levels. From 2019 to 2021, money laundering cases secured a 94% conviction rate in 243 instances.
The UAE Central Bank (CBUAE), the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Economy have each been active in announcing renewed guidance on AML/CFT. In addition, special money laundering courts have been established in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, tightening the enforcement regime within the UAE’s largest business and trade centres.
The good news is we are already making strong progress.
By continuing with our disciplined approach, we will enact a true step change in our ability to prevent illicit financial flows and realize our goal of making the UAE one of the strongest and most respected economies in the modern world.
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