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Dubai blacklisted for failure to clamp down on Russian oligarchs, say activists |  United Arab Emirates


Activists and politicians are calling for the UAE to be blacklisted for its failure to curb the flow of “dirty money” and enforce sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

The Gulf state has become a key haven for Russia’s super-rich fleeing the impact of global sanctions, with private jets and superyachts linked to the oligarchs heading to the United Arab Emirates following the invasion of Ukraine.

Bill Browder, the financier and critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, said: “Dubai has long been a safe place for dirty money. It should now be blacklisted financially and its leaders should not be welcome here.

He said secondary sanctions should be imposed on the UAE unless it provides assistance to countries pursuing the assets of the oligarchs.

It emerged last week that for more than three months one of the world’s most expensive private jets, owned by former Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, had been grounded in Dubai. The US Department of Justice cited the last recorded flight of the $350 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner – from Moscow to Dubai on March 4 – in legal documents seeking its seizure.

Officers were also authorized by a judge to seize a second plane belonging to Abramovich – a Gulfstream G650ER – in Moscow, despite no prospect of immediate seizure.

FBI investigators have found, like many others pursuing the assets of the oligarchs, that the trail often leads to the United Arab Emirates. There has also been an increase in the number of Russians buying properties there. The UAE was placed on a ‘grey list’ by global watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in March due to shortcomings in its anti-money laundering and other measures financial crimes, and there are now calls for the country to be included on similar international lists.

UAE officials do not see themselves as being bound by sanctions devised by other countries, but insist they are working to address concerns highlighted by the FATF. The country also signed a number of mutual legal assistance and extradition pacts with other states, including the United States, on February 24, the same day Russia invaded Ukraine. The fate of Abramovich’s private jet could now be a test of his commitment to international cooperation. On February 25, the United Arab Emirates abstained from a UN Security Council resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

Karen Greenaway, a lawyer and former FBI agent who specializes in illicit money flows, said US officials would almost certainly seek assistance from UAE authorities for the jet linked to Abramovich.

“UAE officials say they are cleaning up their financial transparency law, but now have to cross the line between Russia and the US, UK and EU,” she said. .

The United Arab Emirates is a popular destination for Russian tourists and also has around 100,000 Russian-speaking residents. A report by Dubai real estate agency Betterhomes found property purchases in the emirate increased by 67% in the first three months of 2022.

A superyacht that has ‘faded’ on ocean tracking systems – the futuristic £240million Motor Yacht A linked to billionaire Andrey Melnichenko – has been spotted in the port of the northern emirate of Ras al -Khaimah, according to the FinancialTimes.

Melnichenko was subject to EU sanctions in March, and Italian authorities seized his 143-meter sailboat A the same month. Motor yacht A has so far escaped the application of sanctions.

The Madame Gu superyacht has been linked to Andrey Skoch, a Russian billionaire and member of parliament who is under sanctions by the US, Britain and the EU. The superyacht is also under US sanctions but its whereabouts are unknown. Its last reported sighting was in Dubai on March 6.

Dubai’s role as a sanctuary for Russia’s elite since the invasion of Ukraine has once again highlighted its measures to combat money laundering and illicit money. An investigation published last month into a leak of real estate data in Dubai revealed numerous owners accused or convicted of crimes or under international sanctions, including businessmen close to the Kremlin.

Last month, members of the European Parliament wrote to Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Services, urging that the United Arab Emirates be included in its list of third countries that pose a significant threat to the financial system.

Danish MEP Kira Marie Peter-Hansen said the latest investigation revealed how the UAE was a haven for proceeds of crime, corrupt officials and Russian oligarchs. She said: “We want the UAE blacklisted, especially in light of the large number of Russian oligarchs using the country to avoid sanctions.”

UAE officials did not respond to a request for comment.


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