UAE banks detected 479 money laundering cases in the first quarter of 2011 and reported them to the concerned authorities and officials said the high number indicated better surveillance and business upturn in the country.
Central bank figures showed the total suspicious money laundering and terror funding cases stood at 572 in the first quarter of this year, most of which were detected and report by the country’s 23 national banks and 28 foreign units.
The figures showed 68 cases were reported by money exchange shops and the rest by insurance and other companies operating in the UAE.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, a senior anti-laundering official at the central bank said a record high number of 2,711 laundering cases were reported in 2010, an increase of nearly 55 per cent of 2009, when they stood at 1,750.
“The increase in reported cases was a result of an upswing in domestic business, development of detection and monitoring techniques and better experience by auditing experts at banks in the country,” said Abdul Rahim Al Awadi, head of the Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit (AMLSCU) at the central bank.
Speaking after a laundering seminar at the central bank in Abu Dhabi, Awadi said a large number of the suspicious cases detected in the first quarter of this year had been referred to police and courts. “The remaining cases are still under investigation by our analysts and experts,” he said.
Replying to a question, he said the UAE remains committed to UN resolutions on Libya and that the central bank had notified local banks about them.
“The central bank has not noticed any unusual flow of funds into or out of the UAE from or to any other country,” he added.
Addressing the seminar, he said the UAE, the second largest Arab economy, has been in the forefront of the global efforts on AML/CFT and has pursued a clear strategy in this regard through active collaboration with all the stakeholders in strengthening the AML/CFT regime domestically as well as internationally.
“The National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC) plays the most vital role of coordinating among the various domestic regulatory authorities whose representatives are members in the Committee,” he said.
“To elaborate further, NAMLC has a policy of reviewing the AML/CFT framework on a regular basis in order to assess the current situation and if warranted, coordinate among the authorities to bring about any changes in the existing regulation or issuing new regulations on AML/CFT…it also takes into account the international best practices and evolving global standards in this regard.”
He noted that technological and product developments including market sophistication has changed the operating environment of the financial institutions and brought with it new challenges and risks.
“We must therefore move in tandem with the speed of change to counter any AML/CFT risks to the financial system.”
In earlier statements, Awadi said the UAE is now enforcing one of the strictest laws on funds remitted though changers by imposing a declaration floor of only Dh2,000 compared with at least Dh10,000 in other countries.
Central Bank inspectors also conduct regular visits to exchange houses to ensure their compliance, he said.
“As for Hwala, we are among the countries that are closely monitoring and controlling the activities of these systems….the UAE has taken a pioneering initiative to force those Hwala agencies to register with the Central Bank and asked them to provide all details about their activities,” Awadi said.
“They must inform us about any suspected transfer no matter how its value is…we now have more than 300 Hwala registered with the Central Bank…we know everything about them and those who are not registered with us are not allowed to engage in any financial or remittance activity……we are able to enforce such a rule by preventing them from opening accounts at banks.”