How UAE became the least corrupt nation in Arab world
Dubai - The country has spared no effort to ensure that charges are promptly filed against the corrupt.
As world economies crumbled amid the global recession of 2008, the UAE was among the first to spring into action. Various probes unravelled financial irregularities committed by unscrupulous businessmen and employees.
A top public prosecution official exclusively told Khaleej Times how the country managed not just to bring crooks to justice but also to fortify its defences against corruption in all its forms - in the public sector and private organisations.
Advocate-General Ismail Ali Madani, head of the Public Funds and Counter-Corruption Prosecution, said the UAE quickly responded to the crisis by tightening laws across multiple fields, stiffening penalties and creating a special prosecution office.
The UAE's anti-corruption stance has, in fact, put the country at the forefront of a global movement in this regard.
In 2014, the country was declared as the least corrupt nation in the Arab world by Transparency International and ranked 25th internationally in the perception of corruption list.
Since the dawn of the global recession, the UAE has spared no effort to ensure that charges are promptly filed against the corrupt, the official said.
In 2009, Attorney-General Eissam Issa Al Humaidan established the Prosecution of Public Funds. This prosecution office has since been probing financial irregularities such as bribery, racketeering, embezzlement, and contract frauds. Its purpose is to put an end to the misuse of public funds.
All such complaints from the police and various government departments are now handled at the office of Advocate-General Madani with six prosecutors on board.
Much of the anti-corruption laws that the UAE had incorporated in its Federal Penal Code had been anchored on the United Nations Convention on Fighting Corruption, the only legally binding, universal, anti-corruption instrument of which the country is a member state, Madani said.
Bribery in the private sector, for example, has since been penalised. It is also penalised if it is offered to, solicited, and accepted by foreign public employees and the personnel of foreign organisations.
In the anti-money-laundering and the anti-terror-financing laws, the scope of the crimes has been widened. Existing laws were also modified to fill in gaps and address "every possible loophole".
The investigation and disposal of criminal cases take just an average of 35 days while misdemeanors usually take 15. Lately, "about 50 to 60 per cent" of the prosecution's incoming cases are related to cheques.
Aside from strengthening laws, the UAE has built partnerships with various countries.
Madani, who is also the chairman of the International Judicial Cooperation Unit at the Attorney General's Technical Office, said: "The UAE has communicated with counter-corruption law enforcement authorities worldwide and joined many international, regional, and bilateral treaties in this domain."
The partnerships covered the extradition of individuals and mutual judicial assistance in criminal issues, along with the transportation of convicts. Madani's prosecution office had looked into at least 176 extraditions last year, while 136 of such files were logged so far this year.
Proving that the country's drive against corruption does not exist in a vacuum, the UAE has received accolades for its close co-operation with the international community.
The UAE Central Bank has also joined the Financial Action Task Force, which aims to address risks, combat money laundering and terror financing schemes, implement preventive measures in the financial sector, and enhance transparency.