Emirates NBD has spoken out about the difficulties in fighting financial crime after it was alleged to have handled a share of $20.8 billion of illicit funds in a Russian money laundering scheme between 2011 and 2014.
Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) were the only GCC-based banks named in a list of the top 50 bank families that handled the largest amounts of money from the ‘Global Laundromat’ operation, first exposed in 2014.
An investigation by the Moldovan-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) this week revealed that the UAE was one of 96 countries through which the funds passed.
UAE banks allegedly received a total of $434,076,385 from the scheme, according to the investigation, with Emirates NBD handling $357,130,391 (10th in the list) and ADCB handling $26,333, 645 (44th).
A spokesperson for Emirates NBD said in a statement to Arabian Business: “Emirates NBD notes the OCCRP report with concern. The issues raised in the report highlight the difficulty in this global fight against illicit criminal funds, particularly where the bank may be one of the victims of a scheme designed to disguise and launder the funds through a number of reputable jurisdictions and institutions.”
The statement added: “Emirates NBD is firmly committed to combating financial crime and money laundering in line with the applicable regulations in the jurisdictions that the bank operates in and has policies, procedures and controls in place to monitor, detect, report and mitigate these risks.
“The bank works closely on these priorities with its regulators and law enforcement agencies in the UAE and other relevant jurisdictions as well as its correspondent banking partners.
“Emirates NBD are unable to comment on specific relationships but will proceed in accordance with its above-referenced policies, controls and priorities.”
Emirates NBD is one of the largest retail banks in the UAE with about one-fifth of market share among the 49 members of the UAE Banks Federation.
ADCB and the UAE Banks Federation have been contacted for a statement. There is no suggestion that any of the banks named in the investigation facilitated criminal activity or were aware of where the funds had originated from.
The Global Laundromat was run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and KGB.
Since 2014, law enforcement agencies in Moldova and Latvia have tracked down more than $20 billion in dirty money and arrested the alleged architect of the scheme, a Moldovan businessman with Russian citizenship.
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