Ministry of Economy develops strategic plan & initiatives to strengthen UAE’s anti-money laundering efforts
Anti-Money Laundering Department established within Ministry’s new structure
Abu Dhabi, 24 November 2020
The Ministry of Economy (MoE) announced the development of a strategic plan and initiatives within the framework of its role in supporting the efforts to combat money laundering practices in the country. MoE is the authority entrusted by the UAE Cabinet with the supervision of designated non-financial businesses and professions sector at the national level and commercial free zones with regard to countering money laundering.
The Ministry had recently established a specialized department called the ‘Anti-Money Laundering Department’ within its structure to follow up and implement its strategic plan, create awareness, and to regulate all activities listed under the business sector and specific non-financial professions. These measures fall within the framework of the provisions of Federal Decree Law No. 20 of 2018 on combating money laundering crimes; financing of terrorism and illegal organizations; and the implementation of the regulations.
In this regard, H.E. Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, said that the UAE, thanks to the vision and directives of its wise leadership, has succeeded in establishing an integrated legislative system capable of driving economic and social development. The country has also been keen to implement highly efficient development policies in accordance with its principles of knowledge, innovation, transparency and sound business practices and economic stability.
H.E. Bin Touq further explained that combating money laundering has always been among the priorities of the UAE government’s concerns and that the first federal law for anti-money laundering was issued in 2002. The country’s financial sector has been implementing these measures for many years, and the Ministry of Economy and its partners from the concerned authorities have been keeping pace with ongoing developments in international standards to combat money laundering. The Anti-Money Laundering Department within the Ministry will add further value to the progress made in strengthening the legislative and regulatory framework to confront money laundering in the country during the past three years, which is leading by the Supreme Committee for Combating Money Laundering is chaired by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The designated non-financial business and professions sector, which is supervised by MoE with regard to combating money laundering, includes a wide range of non-financial sectors and activities that are most exposed to the risks of money laundering. They are also prone to the misuse of commercial transactions and the funds circulating for the purposes of money laundering or other illegal practices, given that the nature of the services it provides or the products it deals with, in line with international standards issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The categories under this sector are divided into four main categories according to the nature of the activity. These are independent accountants and account auditors; real estate brokers and agents; dealers of precious metals and gemstones; and companies’ service providers.
H.E. Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy, said that the Ministry is eager to develop its efforts and contribute to supporting the UAE’s anti-money laundering efforts to enhance the country’s technical commitment to international recommendations and treaties in this field and raise its performance across relevant global indicators. These will be achieved through efficient supervision of the country’s business sector; designated non-financial professions; and free trade zones. He affirmed that the Ministry is keen on intensifying communication with this sector to educate it about the dangers of money laundering; create awareness on the Federal Law No. (20) of 2018 regarding anti-money laundering; combat financing of terrorism and illegal outfits, and ensure its compliance with its provisions. The Ministry also seeks to create awareness on the penalties for violation, in addition to ensuring the implementation of recognized global practices for these businesses and professions.
H.E. said: “The Ministry of Economy operates within an integrated system that divides roles among various federal and local authorities and committees, and coordinates with all these partners to ensure the success of supervisions and control over the targeted sectors and activities
According to a ministerial decision by H.E. the Minister of Economy, the Anti-Money Laundering Department in the Ministry will have three main sections, which are the Policies and Risks section, the Money Laundering Control section, and the Investigation and Enforcement section. Safia Al Safi, Director of the Anti-Money Laundering Department, said: “The Policies and Risks section is tasked with identifying and assessing money laundering risks, developing policies, procedures and controls to combat money laundering, and establishing and constantly updating a database for designated non-financial businesses and professions with continuous updating. Meanwhile, the Money Laundering Control section will develop the annual inspection plan according to the risk-based approach, auditing the field and office inspections of the target sectors, and coordinating with the relevant authorities in the country to strengthen the control process. Finally, the Investigation and Enforcement section will undertake the investigation of identified violations, study complaints and verify databases and statistics related to violations
Al-Safi explained that the Ministry of Economy, through its Anti-Money Laundering Department, had been working to develop a strategic and operational plan and a comprehensive general framework to better regulate the business sector and specific non-financial professions during the last period. Besides, these measures are being continuously developed and updated in line with global developments in this regard, and the plan includes many initiatives and programs designed to raise awareness and compliance levels with measures to combat money laundering. These will be implemented according to four main elements that will ensure the effectiveness of implementation and achieve the desired results. These are: the adoption of an approach that focuses on risks; coordination and cooperation with the concerned authorities; support for international cooperation and the fulfillment of the UAE’s obligations in this regard; and the strengthening of partnerships with the private sector in this regard.
The Federal Decree-Law No. 20 of 2018 on combating money laundering crimes, financing of terrorism and financing illegal organizations was issued on October 30, 2018. It aims to develop the UAE’s legislative and legal structure in light of its important role in ensuring continuous compliance with global standards related to combating money laundering crimes and countering the financing of terrorism. Apart from combating money laundering practices and crimes, it establishes a legal framework that strengthens the efforts made by the relevant authorities in the country to combat money laundering, financing of terrorism and other suspicious outfits and activities.
According to the Federal Decree-Law No. 20 of 2018, anyone who knows that the funds originate from felonies or wrongful doings or illegal transactions, and intentionally transfers it or its proceeds or carries out any operations with the intent to conceal or disguise their illegal source, or conceals or disguises their nature, their source, or their location shall be deemed to have committed the crime of money laundering. Individuals who deal with the disposal, movement or ownership of such funds or rights related to it, or the acquisition, possession or use of the proceeds upon receipt, or those who help the perpetrator of the predicate offense to escape punishment will also be deemed guilty.