Terrorist groups suspected of channelling funds into Dubai real estate: Report – The Business Standard

4 minutes, 24 seconds Read

Numerous people linked to groups targeted with the United States sanctions as terrorist organisations, such as Hezbollah and Houthi rebels, appear to have bought real estate in Dubai, reports Nikkei Asia based on data relating to hundreds of thousands of properties obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS).

Countries typically seek to curb terrorist financing by cutting off organisations and individuals from the financial system and freezing their assets. The new findings, the result of a joint investigation by 74 media organisations across 58 countries, point to a hole in such sanctions that is suspected to have provided an opening for money laundering and the financing of terrorism, said the Nikkei Asia report.

Buy/sell, rent/lease residential &
commercials real estate properties.

Instability in the Middle East has been growing since the Israel-Hamas war erupted last October. Tensions between Israel and Iran briefly boiled over into open conflict this April. Iran-backed groups seen as proxies for Tehran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, have also been very active.

According to the Nikkei Asia report, real estate developer and alleged Hezbollah member Adham Tabaja is listed in the property data. So is Qatari-based funder Ali al-Banai, believed to be part of an international network helping to finance Hezbollah’s operations.

Tabaja, who was hit with American sanctions in 2015, is believed to own at least one big-ticket property on the outskirts of the United Arab Emirates city under his own name.

Al-Banai is allegedly involved in a financial network for Hezbollah that encompasses the UAE, Lebanon, Qatar, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. 

Ali Osseiran, who was hit with sanctions for allegedly facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah through art businesses, was named as an owner of a property in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The probe suggests that more than 200 people who could be targeted for investigation, including some under US sanctions, bought real estate in Dubai.

Upon a request for comment from a representative of the project, the Oslo Embassy of the UAE said, “The UAE takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system extremely seriously. … In its continuing pursuit of global criminals, the UAE works closely with international partners to disrupt and deter all forms of illicit finance. The UAE is committed to continuing these efforts and actions more than ever today and over the longer term.”

“Dubai has strict financial oversight rules, but the authorities seem to be able to make exceptions if it is to the authorities’ benefit to turn a blind eye,” said Jodi Vittori, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington and an expert on corruption and financial crime.

The European Union in March 2023 put the UAE on its list of “high-risk third countries” for money laundering, alongside Iran, North Korea, Panama and others, citing flaws in its money laundering safeguards. The European Parliament voted this past April not to remove the UAE from the high-risk countries list, saying the country had improved but not enough has been done yet.

The investigation into Dubai’s real estate market began in September 2023, initiated by C4ADS, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, that focuses on researching international crime and conflict. 

The data was later shared with Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated a collaborative investigative project with numerous media outlets worldwide.

Participating outlets in the “Dubai Unlocked” project included France’s Le Monde, The Times of the UK, Germany’s Der Spiegel, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and Nikkei. 

The leaked data, primarily from 2020 and 2022, offers a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai, including information on their ownership or usage.

The project’s core property data originated from leaks of over 100 datasets, primarily from the Dubai Land Department and publicly owned utility companies. 

It contains details such as the listed owner of each property, as well as additional identifying information like date of birth, passport number, and nationality. Some data also pertains to renters rather than owners.

The OCCRP divided the task of analysing the list among the participating organisations. Journalists spent months verifying the identities and ownership statuses of individuals in the leaked data using official records, open-source research, and other leaked datasets.

The data identifies over 1,000 individuals suspected to be Japanese, some involved in illicit activities. 

For instance, a 52-year-old woman faced court charges for allegedly scamming people into investing in cryptocurrency with false promises of high returns, while her company was accused of underreporting profits. Despite purchasing a $710,000 condominium in central Dubai, she did not comment on the source of funds for the purchase.

Another case involves a 47-year-old Japanese man who owns condos worth $1.3 million and operated a digital gift card resale business plagued by issues where cards bought through the service often failed to work. 

Yoji Aoto, an attorney consulted by victims, argued that the service was a front for money laundering, converting digital gift cards from scam groups into cash.

Dubai’s real estate market has seen significant growth, with the residential housing market expanding roughly threefold between 2020 and 2022, according to UK-based property consultancy Knight Frank. 

The price for a Burj Khalifa condominium rose by 55% since 2021, and in 2023, the number of homes in Dubai sold for at least $10 million surged by 92% to 431 units.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned on the title of this site

Similar Posts

    Your Interest
    Your Interest List is emptyReturn to Buying