UAE jails 6 expats, issues fines up to Dh160 million for money laundering
The convicts, also involved in drug trafficking, have been jailed.
The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court has convicted six expats, and two companies owned by one of the accused, for committing money laundering by conducting suspicious banking transactions in an attempt to conceal the origin of funds obtained from drug trafficking.
The court sentenced each of the accused - identified as (A.A.A.S), (M.S.K.M.A), (S.A.S.M.Z), (S.A.M.S.K.S), (K.T.D.T.M.D) and (A.Z.A) - with ten years imprisonment and a fine of Dh10 million (each) followed by deportation from the country after serving their sentences.
The court also handed down rulings on the two companies. One is specialised in advertising and the second in e-commerce, a fine of Dh50 million each and confiscation of the funds subject to the crime of money laundering whether cash amounts or tangible or intangible assets.
A statement issued by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) on Saturday said that the UAE has an integrated and flexible financial legislative system and a specialised judicial structure to combat financial crimes which has contributed to reduce money laundering operations and helped to arrest those involved in such activities. The ADJD praised the complementarity of efforts between the various judicial, enforcement and financial bodies within the framework of a preventive and dissuasive control system aimed at protecting the national economy.
The Federal Public Prosecution of the United Arab Emirates has forwarded a copy of the drug trafficking case to the Abu Dhabi Financial Prosecution to conduct a parallel financial investigation into the case.
The investigations showed that the four accused, who were convicted of drug trafficking, were in fact working as a gang with members inside and outside the country.
The members based abroad used to deal with the buyer ("consumer") by directing him/her to the whereabouts of the drugs after depositing the price of the drugs into one of the bank accounts of the accused residing inside the UAE or into the account of one of the two companies. The amounts were then transferred via foreign exchange offices to people in Pakistan.
Nearly Dh2 million were recovered from the residence of the accused persons. The investigations conducted by the Financial Prosecution revealed the involvement of two other persons of the same nationality in the money laundering case, however their involvement in the predicate crime (drug trafficking) was not established.
The Financial Prosecution had lifted the banking secrecy of the accused's accounts in accordance with the law. It was found that all of the said bank accounts had recorded a significant turnover which was not commensurate with the financial activities of the accused. The number of deposit operations on a single account of the first accused reached 50 operations in a single day with values between Dh500 and Dh1000.
The investigation also revealed that eight of the depositors had a history of drug addiction.
The first accused had different accounts in six banks in the UAE while the second accused had accounts in three banks.
The enquiry also showed that the first accused had accounts in two other banks in the name of two companies he owned, and that the turnover of the two accounts amounted to about Dh8 million in six months, which was incompatible with the activities of the two companies, with suspicious deposit operations that were not supported by any document confirming the legality of their source.
This confirmed that the two companies were used as a cover for laundering money from drug trafficking, with the aim of concealing the source of the proceeds.
On the other hand, the financial analysis of the accounts of the accused persons confirmed a correlation and coordination between these accounts in organised operations. The investigations showed that the method used to receive and withdraw the funds was similar to that used in drug trafficking and that all the money deposited in these accounts was withdrawn by the persons involved in several installments and transferred to other persons in Pakistan through various exchange offices in the United Arab Emirates.
The recent amendment of the Federal Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism; has helped to strengthen the capacity of the various competent bodies to combat these crimes more effectively, as the legislator has tightened the penalties for those found guilty of any of these crimes, and has broadened the scope of criminalisation to include anyone who proves to be aware of the criminal or illegal origin of the funds. The amended law considers the crime of money laundering as an independent one and provides that “proving the illicit source of the proceeds should not constitute a prerequisite to sentencing the perpetrator of the predicate offence”.
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