This Week in AML

UAE Continues to Offer Safe Haven to Bad Actors

The International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ) recently shared documents with The Irish Times about the Kinahan organized crime cartel. The Irish Times published an extended article about the actions of the cartel in moving to the UAE and taking advantage of its secrecy laws to avoid prosecution. John and Elliot discuss the recent US sanctions issued against Daniel Kinahan, FATF’s gray listing of the UAE, and the importance of financial transparency.



UAE Continues to Offer Safe Haven to Bad Actors TRANSCRIPT


Elliot Berman: John, how are you today?

John Byrne: I'm good, Elliot. And we were both this week at the AML partnership forum. And we're getting some really good feedback from participants and attendees and are excited about this continuing next year. And I'm really happy. We were able to, you know, continue to expand the connection between the private and public sectors. It's so important to our communities. So I think you know, as we plan for next year we got a good, more than a good running start. So that was great.

Elliot Berman: Yeah, it really was exciting. It went, I think, very well. And we did get terrific feedback. We had great engagement both from the private sector and from the federal law enforcement agencies, senior folks from the FBI, IRS, CGI, and HSI came each day to kick off the sessions and as well as many other people at the senior level. So a great first event, and for our listeners, watch the website AMLPF.com For information on when the dates are set for spring of 23 the for the next event.

So John, kind of taking off from the AML partnership forum, you made an interesting conversation with an investigative journalist, which I'll let you talk about again for just a moment. Still, I see the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists put out a very interesting that hit my inbox. Today or yesterday about some folks from Ireland who have kind of decamped to Dubai. I don't know if you saw that, but I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about that too.

John Byrne: Yeah. So going back to the interview, I interviewed a longtime friend of mine, Kevin Hall. He's now the North American editor of the organized crime and corruption reporting project, which is very similar to ICIJ. They're investigative journalists.

They cover, you know, global topics. He was an economics reporter who covered foreign issues and understood US space. And we chatted a bit about offshore and onshore secrecy. And this is sort of connected to that. So on the ICIJ website, they direct us to an article in the Irish Times but make it clear that the documents that were the basis of the story were leaked to ICIJ, and they tie with stone is the Kinahan organized crime cartels.

To companies in Dubai and UAE, also connect that story to the treasury departments, sanctions of Kinahan, and two relatives at four associates. And, in the same both press statement and direction from Treasury. One of the strong statements is that the UAE thrives on financial secrecy. And so that's, you know, coming from the treasury department officials, I think that's pretty important. And the last thing I mentioned, I want to get your take was that FATF financial action task force put UAE recently on what they call the gray list.

And that's supposed to put more pressure on the governments to increase laws and regs that will deal with it. We're all grappling with both secrecy and transparency and all the issues that we're all grappling with, week to week, month to month here.

Elliot Berman: Yeah. One of the things that I found interesting is that the UAE is a critical US partner in the middle east, right.

We have a very large military presence there, if I'm not mistaken. I think our Persian Gulf Naval assets use that as one of their principal bases and be as straightforward about the things going on in the UAE. Particularly around the Kinahan group, but I think my best guess is that they're not unique in taking advantage of the historical secrecy regime in Dubai.

And these guys were not to rattle off all the bad news, but I mean, they were doing lots of drugs smuggling, related money laundering, and many other things. It is essentially a cartel as well as a gang. And, you know, those kinds of organizations are into one particular area of illegal activity.

They regularly seem to broaden out. Six years ago, the head of the group took off from Ireland and quickly moved to Dubai after Daniel Kinahan after some violent activities around his quasi illegal activities. That was what sort of got him got him on the run. But he's been pretty comfy. It looks like from some of the reporting while he's been in Dubai.

John Byrne:  Yeah, in plain sight, which is frustrating. So those of us who think there should be some ramifications for illegal activity, the other thing was going back to the Treasury's comment when they sanctioned the organization and others. They made us, as I said, they made a strong statement.

They call Dubai facilitation for the cartel's illegal activities. That's obviously pretty strong language; according to ICIJ, they think that UAE is responding to those comments at least publicly in statements and others. However, they do quote somebody from a UK-based foreign policy, national security thing.

Who says that UAE walks sort of a tight rope? You know, they try to convince us that it's responsible. However, it still maintains his reputation is; unfortunately, no questions asked haven for the wealthy. I think many countries, including our own, because of some of the states that incorporate anything that moves, you know that's why the beneficial ownership issue, the registry, and all that become so important.

So the country is free of all of this, but I think to the extent that these stories continue to shine a light on the gaps, especially those that pretend to be something. I guess this, and the company was dealing with promoting boxers and that sort of thing. But obviously, as you said, it's pretty clear they were engaged in, you know, money laundering, moving drugs, real estate investments to hold illicit goods, all that, all those sorts of things.

I think that becomes, you know, important when you shine the light on this. What journalists do is so critical. ICIJ, by the way, been around been around a bit; they've been involved, as was the other organization that Kevin's part of with the FinCEN files, Panama papers, Pandora papers, all of those things.

And we can argue and quibble about leaked documents, but that belies what the issue is.

Elliot Berman: Yes, I agree, and again, I think we've mentioned this when we've talked about some other ICIJ projects in the past, but for those of you in our listening audience, you can subscribe to the ICIJ website so that when they post something new, you can get a notification of it and don't have to hear it first from us.

So hopefully, what we talk about is of interest to you. So, John, we've got a webinar Thursday. So you and I are recording here on Wednesday. So this is tomorrow, the 28th. It's a live stream at 1:00 PM tomorrow afternoon. It's on domestic terrorism, but we're looking at domestic terrorism not strictly as a US issue but as a domestic issue in countries around the globe.

And I have some great panelists that'll be joining me tomorrow. And if you'd still like to sign up, if you go to amlrightsource.com. You can sign up, you'll get a link, and you can join us for the live stream so...

John Byrne: Well, they can't do that because it'll be on Thursday, but they can't get the recording. You're just testing everybody.

Elliot Berman: Yeah, there you go. I got to get in the way back machine and put more quarters in, but you're right, John. So if these folks hear this on Friday, they won't have been able to have heard it on Thursday. But if you can still probably register on Friday, then you'll be able to get the recordings.

So and the other thing is we've got some interesting interviews scheduled over the next a number of weeks. So keep an eye on the AML RightSource website for additional new content, and John and I will be back with you next week.

John Byrne: Yep. Take care, Elliot. Have yourself a good week. And everybody, once again, some of the interviews coming up will be with Homeland security with former FinCEN employees and a number of other ones.

If you ever have some topic or person you'd like us to interview, feel free to drop us a line. 

Elliot Berman: All right, John, have a good day.

John Byrne: Take care. Talk to you.