Dubai hits back at claims it launders piracy money

Police official dismisses UK newspaper reports, says they are 'baseless and untrue'.
Dubai hits back at claims it launders piracy money
By Joanna Hartley
Wed 22 Apr 2009 04:30 PM

A UK newspaper’s claims that Dubai and other Gulf states are being used to launder money from piracy have been strongly refuted by the Dubai Police.

A report in The Independent newspaper on Tuesday said investigators, hired by the shipping industry, had discovered that $80m had been paid out in ransoms from hijacked vessels off the Horn of Africa – far more than had previously been reported.

Of this, millions of dollars had been laundered through bank accounts in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East, the newspaper claimed.

In a timely response on Wednesday Dubai Police hit back at the article calling its claims baseless and untrue, as part of a statement posted on the UAE’s official WAM news agency.

The newspaper's claims centred around comments made by Christopher Ledger, manager of security company Idarat Maritime, which is working to develop greater protection for ships in collaboration with ship insurers.

Ledger was quoted as saying: "There is evidence that syndicates based in the Gulf – some in Dubai – play a significant role in the piracy which is taking place off the African coast."

“There are huge amounts of money involved and this gives the syndicates access to increasingly sophisticated means of moving money as well as access to modern technology in carrying out the hijackings,” he added.

Ledger’s views were backed by Major General Julian Thompson, chairman of Idarat.

"What we can say is that these people are not just fishermen who have taken up a bit of piracy as a hobby."

"The people in ultimate charge of some of the groups have access to some pretty good information and they are well organised. Dubai seems to be the place which has a part in this," Thompson told the newspaper.

In his response Dubai Police Chief, Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazinah countered the claims by pointing out that the UAE had tough anti-money laundering laws, and was the only country in the region that registered money laundering cases.

The Emirates was a member of the Financial Action Task Force, made up of seven major industrial countries, which issued periodic reports about countries that faled to cooperate on money laundering, he added.

Any amount more than AED40, 000 was treated as suspicious until proven otherwise, Mazinah said in comments published in UAE daily Emirates Today.

“We did not receive any report about the money laundering taking place in the UAE,” Mazinah said.

The Independent’s article is the latest in a wave of criticism aimed at the UAE in the international media, which has lead Emirates officials to comment that external journalists are targetting the country with negative press.

In an online address to the media earlier this week Sheikh Mohammed, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: "Now the focus is on Dubai, and again the stereotypes are being brought up. It seems that any successful Arab model in economic development invites such negative treatment in the international media."

Mazinah reiterated this feeling, stating that the newspaper was targeting the UAE's reputation through the dissemination of unfounded rumours.

The Independent had published its report without getting any comment from the security authorities in Dubai or from the UAE Central Bank, he added.

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