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UAE Reports Advances in Anti-Money Laundering Efforts

AlZaabi stressed that the UAE will continue to build out its long-term, sustainable AML/CTF capabilities to detect, investigate and understand money laundering and terrorist financing…reports Asian Lite News

Hamid AlZaabi, Director-General of the Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (EO AMLCTF), revealed that the UAE has completed a comprehensive review of AML/CFT progress made in the first half of 2023 which shows significant improvement across the board.

In a statement to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), AlZaabi stressed that the review’s outcome demonstrates the robustness, responsiveness and effectiveness of the UAE national AML/CFT system. During this period, the UAE has continued to implement the National Action Plan and National AML/CTF Strategy and is resolutely pursuing its agenda for combating illicit financing and preserving the integrity of the global financial system.

He noted that these efforts have substantially increased key performance indicators, including STRs/SARs, enforcement actions, inspections by supervisory authorities, and confiscations. He also pointed out that the UAE successfully confiscated over AED1.309 billion from March 2023 to mid-July 2023, reaffirming its commitment to strengthening its financial system.

AlZaabi stressed that the UAE will continue to build out its long-term, sustainable AML/CTF capabilities to detect, investigate and understand money laundering and terrorist financing and will continue to broaden its international cooperation.

He added, “The UAE’s participation in the Eurasia Group plenary was followed by granting official observer status at the Asia/Pacific Group plenary. On the domestic level, the UAE FIU hosted the 2023 annual meeting of the Egmont Group in Abu Dhabi, a global organisation that facilitates the exchange of information, knowledge, and cooperation amongst 170 member FIUs. We look forward to continuing our positive progress in the second half of the year.”

The Director-General of the EO AMLCTF said that the achievement of the first quarter included the participation of a UAE delegation led by the EO AML/CTF for the first time in plenaries of two FATF-Style Regional Bodies: the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) and Eurasia Group (EAG).

He added that supervisors of Financial Institutions (FIs) and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFPBs) imposed collective fines of more than AED199 million. The UAE also successfully confiscated over AED1.309 billion (approx. US$356,000,000) from March 2023 to mid-July 2023.

He noted that from Q1 to Q2 2023, the UAE reported a 17% increase in total STRs. During this period, DNFBP submissions increased by 14% and DPMS submissions by 23%.

AlZaabi explained that in Q2 2023, the number of inspections (69,407) surpassed the total number of inspections in 2022 (67,097), with an increase of 108% compared to the first quarter of 2023.

He mentioned that the private sector reporting of Targeted Financial Sanctions (TFS) and Terrorist and Proliferation Financing (PF/TF) – related STRs/SARs to the FIU has increased. Statistics from March-June 2023 show an approximate increase of 93% on the previous reporting period.

He said that since March 2023, the Executive Office for Control and Non-Proliferation (EOCN) conducted four training sessions for nearly 4,000 private and public sector professionals on TF/PF.

According to the Director-General of the EO AMLCTF, the UAE continues to prioritise international cooperation to combat financial and organised crime. This includes several high-profile cases of investigations, arrests and extradition agreements between the UAE and other jurisdictions.

He added that the UAE has successfully signed 45 Mutual Legal Assistance treaties (MLA) in line with efforts stated by the Ministry of Justice in its guide to international judicial cooperation in criminal matters. One MLA treaty was signed with the Republic of Türkiye, and further treaties are being developed.

He noted that the UAE focused on outbound MLA requests and other requests targeting trade-based money laundering (ML), third party ML, foreign predicate offences, and international facilitators. He explained that from March 2023 to mid-July 2023, the UAE sent 82 outgoing MLA requests to 34 foreign countries. In 2022, the UAE sent 290 outgoing MLA requests to 72 countries. For the first half of 2023, the UAE has sent 119 outgoing MLA requests to over 40 jurisdictions.

He mentioned that for the first half-year of 2023, the UAE received 202 incoming MLA requests and provided responses to 130 MLA requests (approx. 73%), while the remaining 71 are currently being processed by the respective PPs as of the end of June 2023, with one incoming MLA being withdrawn by the respective foreign jurisdiction. This continues the positive trends seen in 2022.

According to the EO AMLCTF Director-General, the UAE invests significant resources into increasing the capacity of nationwide and regional supervisors to ensure that FIs and DNFBPs are compliant with AML/CFT requirements.

He added that from February to July 2023, the UAE has continued to intensify its outreach and awareness-raising initiatives, conducting 12 sessions that reached over 18,000 personnel across the public and private sectors.

He mentioned that through 14th July, the MOE had completed 52% (1,737 out of 3,360) of on-site full-scope inspections of high-risk DNFBPs and prioritised these on-site inspections based on the risks and size of the sectors.

He explained that the supervisors of FIs and DNFBPs issued collective fines amounting to AED199 million for H1 2023, which exceeds the totals from years 2022 (AED76.2 million), 2020 (AED8.4 million) and 2019 (AED800,000) combined.

He noted that between March 2023 and June 2023, the CBUAE completed 30 on-site reviews and finalised 57 on-site reviews this year. Inspections undertaken during the current reporting period resulted in 385 remedial actions identified, and 28 Remedial Mitigation Plans were issued to CBUAE regulated entities.

AlZaabi explained that supervisory authorities continue to invest in their human resources.

Investigations and prosecutions

According to AlZaabi, the UAE’s system to effectively investigate ML offences and to swiftly impose proportionate sanctions continues to improve and be enhanced to dissuade further criminal behaviour. These efforts include implementing additional investigation tools and improved investigative methods and techniques.

He added that between March and mid-July 2023, the UAE has prioritised investigations and prosecutions of large-scale, complex ML cases. During this period, 183 ML cases were launched nationally by the relevant investigation and prosecution authorities.

AlZaabi explained that out of the new ML cases, 51 cases were based on Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) disseminations; 164 cases were judicially investigated by the Public Prosecutions (PPs); and 99 cases were referred to Court during this review period.

He mentioned that the UAE maintains a 92.1% conviction rate in ML cases between March 2023 and mid-July 2023, landing 76 convictions during the same period. Approximately 45.3% of the police investigations were generated by formal and informal international cooperation, such as incoming MLA requests, FIU-to-FIU, and police-to-police cooperation.

He noted that confiscating illicit proceeds is a high priority for the relevant authorities to ensure that the criminal funds are confiscated and prevented from entering the financial system again, deterring further criminal activity.

The Director-General of the EO AMLCTF said that during H1 2023, the UAE demonstrated how financial intelligence is instrumental across relevant authorities in effectively assisting in ML and TF investigations. The UAE has made significant investments to improve the FIU’s capabilities and efficiency and is seeing significant improvements in the prosecution of financial crimes.

He noted that the FIU has invested heavily in improving the team by hiring highly experienced professionals with relevant experience in compliance, banking, law enforcement and investigations.

AlZaabi stressed that 183 new ML cases have been referred at the national level by relevant investigation and prosecution authorities, which further enhances the capacity of investigation and prosecution authorities to use other sources of information and conduct Parallel Financial Investigations.

He said the FIU includes analysis information from foreign FIUs and provides financial intelligence for investigation and prosecution authorities to continuously pursue high-risk ML threats. Moreover, meetings with foreign FIUs and international stakeholders have increased.

ALZaabi stressed that the UAE treats TF and PF risks seriously. Highly prioritised efforts and activities ensure that terrorist financiers are prevented from raising funds – either via the private or the non-profit organisation (NPO) sector – and that the entities and individuals engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are prevented from doing so in accordance with UNSCRs.

He noted that the EOCN continues to prioritise comprehensive outreach to the private and public sectors on TF/PF. Since March 2023, four training sessions have been conducted and attended by 4,000 participants, focused mainly on international CPF obligations, compliance best practices, and typologies.

He explained that the private sector reporting of TFS PF/TF – related STRs/SARs to the FIU – has increased compared to the past two reporting periods. Statistics from March to June 2023 show an approximate increase of 93% and 96% in STRs compared to the past two reporting periods (Jul – Oct 22 and Nov 22 to Feb 23, respectively). This indicates an increasing and sustained trend.

He concluded that supervisors and all AML/CFT authorities are actively coordinating and participating in the ongoing process to update the second National Risk Assessment launched in October 2022. (By Ramy Sameeh)

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12 Indian-origin men, women convicted of money laundering

According to NCA investigations, the money was profit from the sale of class A drugs and organised immigration crime…reports Asian Lite News

Sixteen people, including several men and women of Indian descent, have been convicted after a major investigation into a West London-based organised crime group involved in international money laundering and human smuggling, UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Members of the network smuggled in excess of GBP 42 million in cash out of the UK, making hundreds of trips to Dubai and the UAE between 2017 and 2019.

According to NCA investigations, the money was profit from the sale of class A drugs and organised immigration crime.

“This has been a long and complex investigation into an organised crime group involved in money laundering on a commercial scale and organised immigration crime. Over a two-year period, working together with partners in the UK and abroad, NCA investigators were able to uncover the evidence to secure these convictions,” NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said.

Around GBP 1.5 million was seized from couriers leaving the UK but flight analysis, evidence from cash declarations in Dubai, and other material seized by the NCA showed the group had succeeded in transporting far more.

In November 2019, following weeks of surveillance, communications and flight data analysis, officers moved in to make arrests, and those charged were prosecuted in two trials at Croydon Crown Court, starting in January 2023.

Gang ringleader Charan Singh, 44, from Hounslow, was among those detained in a series of early morning raids across west London.

Along with Singh, Valjeet Singh, Jasbir Singh Kapoor, Jasbir Singh Dhal were found guilty of conspiring to remove criminal property or money laundering.

Swander Singh Dhal was found guilty of conspiring to remove criminal property and also conspiring to facilitate a breach of immigration law, and Diljan Singh Malhotra was found guilty of conspiring to facilitate a breach of immigration law.

Amarjeet Alabadis, Jaginder Kapoor, Jackdar Kapoor, Manmon Singh Kapur, Pinky Kapur and Jasbeer Singh Malhotra were convicted of removing criminal property.

All 16 convicted are due to be sentenced in a hearing starting September 11, 2023, including two individuals who entered guilty pleas for money laundering offences prior to the two trials.

As part of the investigation NCA officers also uncovered a plot involving members of the organised crime group to smuggle 17 migrants, including five children and a pregnant woman, into the UK in the back of a van carrying tyres in 2019.

The van was intercepted by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA, before it could reach a ferry at the Hook of Holland.

“This case demonstrates the continued commitment by the NCA to protect the public and target the criminal networks involved in both people smuggling and money laundering. We will continue to use the full range of tactics at our disposal to disrupt and dismantle them,” Hill said in a statement.

ALSO READ-UAE steps up anti-money laundering efforts

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FATF ministers pledge swift and decisive action

The ministers pledged to promptly implement the FATF’s global beneficial ownership rules to stop criminals from hiding their illicit activities and dirty money behind anonymous shell companies and other corporate structures, reports Asian Lite News

The Ministers of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) members committed to take swift and decisive action to improve the effectiveness of measures to fight money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing at their meeting in Washington D.C. on April 21.

This includes promptly implementing the FATF’s global beneficial ownership rules, which were strengthened earlier this year, to stop criminals from hiding their illicit activities and dirty money behind anonymous shell companies and other corporate structures.

During this biennial Ministerial meeting, members pledged to remedy remaining significant technical compliance deficiencies and agreed on strategic priorities for the two years ahead (2022-2024) to enhance the effective implementation of the FATF Standards worldwide.

In addition to enhancing beneficial ownership transparency, these include increasing capabilities to more effectively recover criminal assets, which will help remove incentives for crimes, such as corruption and tax crimes, and return assets to victims.

Ministers and other top officials from 37 FATF member countries and two regional organisations also agreed to strengthen the FATF Global Network, support the FATF system of mutual evaluations, ensure sustainable funding for the FATF to implement its strategic priorities, and leverage digital transformation to better tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

FATF President Dr. Marcus Pleyer reported on the successful completion of the FATF’s Strategic Review, which ministers welcomed and expect to achieve more timely assessments with a stronger focus on risk in the next round of mutual evaluations.

FATF Ministers expressed their sympathies with the people of Ukraine in light of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and called on jurisdictions to remain vigilant of the threats to the integrity, safety and security of the international financial system that result from Russia’s actions.

FATF Ministers will meet again in 2024. (ANI)

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Suisse Secrets cast light on int’l money laundering

The Suisse Secrets project investigates these account holders, whose exploitation of Swiss banking secrecy is a prime example of how the international financial industry enables theft and corruption…writes Sanjeev Sharma

The ‘Suisse Secrets’ project investigates bank account information leaked from Credit Suisse, Switzerlands second-largest lender. The leak included more than 18,000 accounts that held in excess of $100 billion at their peaks. It is the only known leak of a major Swiss banks client data to journalists.

Switzerland is a well-known destination for money from all over the world, in part because of its banking secrecy laws. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a Swiss bank account. But banks are supposed to avoid clients who earned money illegally or were involved in crimes – and reporters identified dozens of corrupt government officials, criminals, and alleged human rights abusers among Credit Suisse account holders, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said in a report.

Despite their notoriety – which, in some cases, would have been obvious from a quick Google search – Credit Suisse maintained relationships with some of these clients for years, though it is possible that some accounts were ordered frozen by law enforcement.

The Suisse Secrets project investigates these account holders, whose exploitation of Swiss banking secrecy is a prime example of how the international financial industry enables theft and corruption

The Suisse Secrets data was provided to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source more than a year ago. Nothing is known about the source’s identity.

The source, however, did provide a statement explaining his or her motivations.

It reads, in part: “I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral. The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders. � This situation enables corruption and starves developing countries of much-needed tax revenue.

“I want to emphasize the fact that the responsibility for this state of affairs does not lie with Swiss banks but rather with the Swiss legal system. Banks are simply being good capitalists by maximizing profits within the legal framework they operate in. Simply put, Swiss legislators are responsible for enabling financial crimes and – by virtue of their direct democracy – the Swiss people have the power to do something about it.”

Those cases that merited publication involved clients known to have been high-risk: politically connected people or those accused or convicted of serious crimes. OCCRP said dozens of Credit Suisse accounts belonged to prominent figures, alongside the scandals, criminal investigations, or high-profile political events they were involved in.

One example is Rodoljub Radulovic, a high-ranking member of one of Eastern Europe’s largest cocaine-smuggling cartels, led by the notorious Serbian drug lord Darko Saric. Radulovic was able to open a Credit Suisse account despite a long history of involvement in financial scandals in the US. He then used it to launder over 3 million euros’ worth of drug money, Serbian prosecutors say.

Another is Eduard Seidel, a former top executive in Nigeria for German telecommunications giant Siemens, whose accounts contained tens of millions of Swiss francs. Two of them remained open for almost a decade after allegations of his involvement in a major bribery scandal in Nigeria first broke.

Then there’s Muller Conrad Rautenbach, a mining magnate who has openly boasted of his willingness to bribe his way to the top, and was sanctioned by the US and EU. He opened high-value accounts at Credit Suisse even after the UN warned he was allegedly overseeing corrupt mining deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The larger story that unites these cases is that of a major financial institution that allowed clients to stash away laundered or stolen assets. Nearly all of the stories rely on publicly available information, meaning that Credit Suisse’s due diligence department would have had access to it as well, the OCCRP said.

“Everyone should have some access to the banking system,” said Graham Barrow, a financial crime specialist.

“What you should not be able to do is use the banking system to introduce corruptly acquired wealth and legitimize it.”

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ED to quiz Dawood Ibrahim’s brother in money laundering case

Salim Qureshi, the aide of Chhota Shakeel is currently being interrogated by a team of elite officials of the probe agency….reports Asian Lite News

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has moved an application before the concerned court seeking permission to question Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal Kaskar in money laundering case.

Iqbal Kaskar has been made an accused in the case. Sources have claimed that ED is planning to arrest him. The court will decide their plea in coming days.

Salim Qureshi, the aide of Chhota Shakeel is currently being interrogated by a team of elite officials of the probe agency.

Iqbal Kaskar was placed under arrest in 2017 by Thane Police in connection with an extortion case. An FIR under section 384 (extortion), and other relevant sections of the IPC was lodged by Thane Police against Anees Ibrahim, Iqbal Kaskar and others. The ED has taken all the documents from Thane Police pertaining to the case.

The National Investigation Agency too had lodged a case of terror activities on the basis of the FIR of Thane Police and other relevant documents. The ED lodged an ECIR of Money Laundering on the basis of the case lodged by the NIA.

Sources have said that it was learnt that Qureshi went to Pakistsn several times using forged passport. He also allegedly works at the behest of Dawood and Shakeel.

The ED has collected the information regarding his bank accounts, properties and other income sources.

Sources have claimed that they used to collect extortion money, and also earned through settlement (solving disputes after creating it themselves), and through drugs. Later this money was allegedly used to spread terror activities across India.

On Wednesday, Qureshi was asked to join the investigation by 11 a.m. The ED had asked him to come with a set of documents pertaining to financial matter.

ALSO READ: Pakistan in soup as authorities admit Dawood’s presence

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NatWest pleads guilty in money laundering case

NatWest remains 55% taxpayer-owned after receiving a £45bn bailout at the height of the 2008 financial crisis…reports Asian Lite News.

National Westminster Bank on Thursday pleaded guilty to the charges of alleged money laundering of nearly £400m by one customer.

NatWest said “we deeply regret” failing to “adequately monitor and therefore prevent money laundering by one of our customers between 2012 and 2016”, the BBC reported.

The state-backed NatWest, is the first British lender to admit such an offence. Also, the case marks the first criminal prosecution brought by the FCA under the 2007 Money Laundering Regulations (MLR), the complianceweek reported.

The NatWest branch at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire (Wikipedia)

Lawyers told a court hearing that NatWest faces a large fine, the BBC reported.

The case was brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which alleged the bank failed to monitor suspect activity by a client that deposited about £365m in its accounts over five years, of which £264m was in cash.

The FCA said NatWest failed to adhere to the requirements of anti-money laundering legislation in relation to Fowler Oldfield Ltd’s account between 7 November 2013 and 23 June 2016.

Fowler Oldfield was a century-old jeweller based in Bradford, and was shut down following a police raid in 2016.

FCA prosecutor Clare Montgomery QC told Westminster magistrates that when Fowler Oldfield was taken on as a client by NatWest, its predicted turnover was said to be £15m per annum. However, it deposited £365m over the space of almost five years.

NatWest remains 55% taxpayer-owned after receiving a £45bn bailout at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

“NatWest has a vital part to play in detecting and preventing financial crime and we take extremely seriously our responsibility to prevent money laundering by third parties,” the BBC quoted Chief executive Alison Rose as saying.

“In the years since this case, we have invested significant resources and continue to enhance our efforts to effectively combat financial crime.”

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NRI truck driver jailed for money laundering in US

Lovepreet Singh of Indiana pleaded guilty in March to one count of money laundering…reports Asian Lite News

An Indian truck driver in the US has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined USD 4,710 for money laundering and firearm offences, according to the Department of Justice.

Lovepreet Singh of Indiana pleaded guilty in March to one count of money laundering, it said.

He admitted to receiving and transmitting money obtained by his co-defendants as a result of the fraud scheme, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, it said.

Singh, who worked as a truck driver, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and filed USD 4,710 in restitution for money laundering and firearms offences, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

According to the indictment and testimony in court, beginning in 2015 and continuing through 2018, Singh conspired with nine other defendants, located across the US and India, to commit the federal offences of wire fraud, mail fraud, and bank fraud in addition to offences of money laundering, aggravated identity theft and passing fictitious obligations.

Conspirators would obtain the telephone numbers and email addresses of computers belonging to various individuals throughout the US, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The conspirators established and operated various business entities such as World Tech Assistance and US Support Inc., in Mississippi and elsewhere in the US.

They engaged telephone calling centers in India, which would place calls to the US numbers and appear to be coming from US-based toll-free numbers.

They would call victims in the US, advising the victims that malware and ransomware were infecting the victims’ computers and devices and that the victims should contact the conspirators for assistance, federal prosecutors alleged.

According to court documents, they misrepresented themselves as “Apple Support” or “Microsoft” or other legitimate and known technical support services and offered their assistance to remove the software in return for payment.

“Victims responded to the conspirators’ phone calls and pop-up messages to send money and payments by wire, cheque, and other means. Victims also granted conspirators access to the victims’ bank accounts and to the victims’ computers, permitting the conspirators to further enrich themselves by fraudulent appropriation and taking of the money and property of the victims,” it added.

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-Top News Europe

EU urged to act against money laundering, terror funding

Money laundering is the practice of legitimising the proceeds of crime by filtering them into the regular economy to disguise their illegal origin…reports Asian Lite News.

The European Union (EU) has a fragmented approach to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has warned.

In a special report on the subject released on Monday, the ECA said that although the value of suspicious transactions within the EU is estimated to be hundreds of billions of euros, its approach to counter it was fragmented, adding that the bloc needed a stronger oversight framework for combating money laundering,reports Xinhua news agency.

Although the relevant EU bodies have a policymaking and coordinating role and limited direct powers, efforts are largely managed at the national level.

The special report from the ECA concludes that EU-level action to combat money laundering and terrorist financing has weaknesses, and that the bloc’s oversight framework is fragmented and poorly coordinated and thus fails to ensure a coherent approach and a level playing field.

Money laundering is the practice of legitimising the proceeds of crime by filtering them into the regular economy to disguise their illegal origin.

Within Europe, Europol estimates that the value of suspicious transactions is equivalent to about 1.3 per cent of EU’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“EU-level weaknesses with regard to money laundering and terrorist financing need to be addressed, and the EU’s supervisory role significantly strengthened,” said Mihails Kozlovs, a member of the ECA responsible for the report.

“Much more needs to be done to ensure that the EU law is implemented promptly and coherently. For a start, the EU should use regulations in preference to directives wherever possible, given the need for legislation to be implemented coherently at Member State level,” Kozlovs added.

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