UAE Enhances its Governance to Combat Financial Crime - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT, Sunday, 24 October, 2021 - 11:45

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H.E. Ahmed Al Sayegh Minister of State - Chairman of the Committee for Goods Subject to Import and Export Control, to Asharq Al-Awsat News, Fifty years on from the foundation of the United Arab Emirates, during which its achievements have exceeded all limits and expectations, the country has begun working, over the past years, on strengthening its national Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing (CTF) regimes to make them consistent with the inspiring vision of its wise leadership.


The vision for the next 50 years, represented by the strategic projects and initiatives of the recently launched Projects of the 50, are aimed at making the UAE a global hub for investment and economic innovation, as well as an integrated incubator for entrepreneurship and startups. All the concerned UAE authorities are striving to ensure the realization of that objective as they work tirelessly to support the national regime to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist groups and illicit organizations, with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness and sustainability of the economy.


Over the past few months, the Emirati state has continued its major efforts in this regard, directly running the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.


All concerned governmental institutions have been working around the clock to build their capacities in countering financial crimes. Leading the efforts are law enforcement bodies, oversight institutions, the judiciary, ministries, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Executive Office for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing.


Beyond a shadow of a doubt, these efforts have enhanced our deep understanding and collective commitment to combating transnational financial crime, an objective that demands the consolidation of our collective efforts to apply both global and domestic measures and reforms.


Among the most prominent achievements realized recently is the integration of cutting edge technologies to facilitate reporting and analyzing suspicious transaction data, such as the GoAML system and the IEMS platform for communications between the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Central Bank, private sector institutions and law enforcement, and the Fawry system - which enables authorities to take immediate action based on warnings reports of illegal transactions and suspicious activity. Additionally, the UAERRS system has also contributed to allowing money transfer operators and money service businesses to continuously submit their transaction data to the Financial Intelligence Unit, while a unified customs platform has been established with the aim of combating the threats financial crimes pose to trade.


In order to sharpen awareness about the principal threats associated with the business sector and the designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs), as well as enhancing the business sector’s ability to understand the organization and operational developments and to comply with their directives, a framework for countering financial crimes was common to both the private and public sector was established. Thus, two meetings brought the executive directors of a broad sector of companies working in business and DNFBPs. With 600 establishments present, the meetings aimed at raising awareness and enhancing understanding of the most critical anti-money laundry laws and the most significant risks posed by money laundering and financing terrorist activities, as well as emphasizing the importance of channels of communication and coordination with the public sector in this regard.


The ministry of economy also oversaw 11 workshops on compliance with anti-AML and CTF legislation and demands. They were attended by around 7,000 people, including representatives from high-risk sectors like precious metals and real estate.


These workshops and meetings were held within the framework of a sustainable approach led by the authorities and relevant ministries of the Emirati state, through a comprehensive plan to hold these events cyclically and consistently and focus efforts on enhancing awareness and cooperation, as well as the commitment to reporting on suspicious activity and strict compliance with the frameworks for confronting financial crime.


Moreover, to ensure continued cooperation between the different sides, I recently led the work of a group of the Emirati state’s most prominent experts to develop and build on the technical cooperation that has been established between local authorities and international partners. This group includes officials working in a broad array of fields, including senior law enforcement officials, ministerial officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the UAE Central Bank and other public bodies.


The Emirati state is taking every available opportunity to enhance existing communication channels, sources of information, training activities, and capacity and resource building of various concerned bodies, especially the Financial Intelligence Unit, the ministry of finance, the interior ministry, public prosecution, and law enforcement. Particular emphasis is placed on money laundering, fraud, sanctions and terrorist financing risks. The UAE Financial Intelligence Unit has played a key role in gathering intelligence and the freezing accounts of individuals being prosecuted.


On foreign policy and international cooperation, the Emirati state has made every effort to enhance its global cooperation in curbing money laundering and terrorism financing. It has done so by closely coordinating with engaged countries and strategic partners, leading to tangible progress on many fronts linked to developing the state’s AML and CTF regimes and improving their efficiency.


The UAE’s embassies have played a central role in the effort to incentivize the exchange of information and experience, as well as building active technical communication channels that link the Emirates with counterparts around the world.


Institutional cooperation with the European Union has been a model for international cooperation on fighting money laundering and terrorism financing. As part of the structural dialogue between the EU and UAE, a series of virtual workshops on the best practices and means for fighting financial crime, bringing officials from both together, were held through distinguished efforts and organization of the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation and our foreign partners.


This cooperation with the European Union comes within the framework of a holistic approach to enhancing the international cooperation programs aimed at facilitating the exchange of experience and building capacities in confronting money laundering and terrorism financing, with the UK-UAE Partnership To Tackle Illicit Financial Flows, which includes three tracks for the enhancement of strategic cooperation to curb financial crime springing from these efforts.