Thursday, May 23, 2024

Dubai: Playground for Malaysian money launderers, drug lords, terrorist funder and criminals?

Last week, viral on social media that over 300 Malaysians are property owner in Dubai, including on the  the David Beckham associated Palm Jumeirah artificial islands and on the world's tallest structure, Burj Al Khalifa.

It was a report by Dubai Unlocked, an investigative project involving 70 global news groups including our local Malaysiakini. 

According to The Sun report, "it is learnt from the 500 properties linked to Malaysians, more than 300 are classified as residential properties by economists at the EU Tax Observatory and Norway’s Centre for Tax Research, who worked on the leaked data separately.

"Furthermore, economists reportedly estimated the residential properties owned by Malaysians alone as per the leaked data would be worth US$160.9 million (RM710 million) in 2022" and "Malaysian-owned residential properties are worth a total of US$320 million (RM1.5 billion) city-wide."

Rakyat Post report reproduced on alleged that most people who owned property in Dubai are of shady character. The reports reproduced below:

Dubai Unlocked Looks Into Property Ownership, Local Report Says Malaysians Too Love Buying Properties There

Story by Adeline Leong 

Dubai Unlocked, an investigative project involving more than 70 media outlets globally, looked into property ownership in Dubai and alleged that many people worldwide who own properties in Dubai are shady characters.

The list however does not include any Malaysian names.

According to the reports on the leaked documents, it’s alleged that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities pick and choose which individuals to extradite back to their origin country based on the individual’s alleged benefit to the country.

The UAE does not have an extradition treaty with the European Union, the United States, Germany, and many other countries, making Dubai a safe haven for wanted criminal suspects.

Radha Stirling, an attorney and human rights advocate who leads the legal assistance organization Detained in Dubai, said the authorities use high-profile fugitives as “bargaining chips.”

The presence of extradition agreements between nations are not necessarily key to whether or not people are extradited. What matters is what Dubai wants in return and whether that nation has something they want enough to barter.

Radha Stirling, an attorney and human rights advocate for Detained in Dubai

Moreover, Dubai has no personal income tax for gains from the digital currency exchange for residents such as cryptocurrency. In Malaysia, one can be taxed up to 30% for the same thing.

Since they do not have to pay income tax, it was said that some individuals began declaring all their financial activities there despite their expenses being tracked.

They can convert their digital currency into fiat money tax-free and invest in anything they want. This loophole lets unsavoury characters exploit it to make more money and live luxuriously without fearing authorities.

*Fiat money is a government-issued currency that is not tied to a commodity like gold.

How do they get to own properties there if they are “outlaws”?

In March, SVT reporters went on an undercover consultation with a salesperson from leading Dubai real estate firm Damac and found that people could pay in bags of cash or cryptocurrency to buy a flat with zero questions about their funds.

No department, especially the property developers themselves, will question the funds and anyone who can buy a property can buy.

These alleged criminals do not conduct violent crimes in Dubai but launder money instead. Think of it like a retirement home for criminals.

The representatives of the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Office and the Dubai Land Department did not respond to requests for comments.

However, the UAE Embassy in Oslo issued a statement and said the allegations about Dubai property ownership records are “factually inaccurate.”

The UAE operates clear regulatory frameworks that comply with international laws and standards designed to combat financial crime. Dubai Land Department processes and activities are a cornerstone of these efforts.

UAE Embassy in Oslo

Many Malaysians own properties in Dubai too

Malaysiakini, one of the many media outlets working on Dubai Unlocked, reported that more than 300 Malaysians are listed as property owners in Dubai.

The leaked data showed that 342 Malaysians owned a total of 548 units in Dubai in 2020 and 2022 with an estimated total value of RM1.24 billion (US$262,398,932).

The properties linked to Malaysian owners are within the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah areas.

The properties in the Burj Khalifa area include Burj Vista Tower 1, The Address Residences Dubai Opera T2, Vision Tower 1, and South Ridge-Podium Villas East.

Each building has an estimated value between US$1.4 million to US$1.7 million per unit. However, Vision Tower 1 is the most expensive, ranging from US$7.2 million to US$7.5 million per unit.

Over at the Palm Jumeirah area, the buildings included are Balqis Residence 3, Marina Apartments 6, The Palm Tower, Golden Mile 9, Five at Palm Jumeirah Dubai, and The Residence North.

Each building has an estimated value between US$0.5 million to 1.2 million per unit except The Residence North which has an estimated value of US$2.8 million per unit.

Malaysiakini said at least six properties linked to Malaysians are located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah artificial islands. The Beckhams and Indian celebrity Shah Rukh Khan are said to own holiday homes there too.

Malaysiakini is withholding the identities of these notable owners pending their comments and has independently verified some of the leaked data by corroborating it with official government records and other sources.

These notable individuals were prominent business owners or corporate players. However, no politicians or their known proxies were found in the list.

Roughly two-thirds of Malaysian property owners have an Emirates ID, suggesting that they’re likely UAE residents in some capacity.

It’s not revealed if all Malaysian owners are wanted for crime but Dubai Unlocked’s FAQ stated that reporters omitted including celebrities and other private individuals who are found not to have links with any criminal activities.

A check on the database revealed that Malaysia is not listed under the “Region” category.

If the report is not alarming enough, Asia News Network taken from Star Online reported Dubai is merely a preferred hideout for Malaysian money launderers to stash their money, but the home for terrorist financiers, drug lords and kleptocrats.  

Playground for money launderers

Dubai Unlocked project exposes web of questionable property ownership   

SINGAPORE Tuesday, 21 May 2024

SEVERAL people linked to Singapore’s biggest case of money laundering have been named in an international media investigation known as the Dubai Unlocked project.

They were identified as having purchased property worth millions of dollars in Dubai alongside terrorist financiers, drug lords and kleptocrats.

Dubai Unlocked involved journalists from more than 70 media outlets across the world, including The Straits Times, Al Jazeera, Forbes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Times.

The reports are based on a massive leak of records of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage, mostly from 2020 and 2022.

The data was obtained by the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies, a non-profit organisation based in the United States, and shared with Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated the investigations over the course of more than six months.

The leak revealed that former Afghan Parliament Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani and his son Ajmal spent more than US$15mil (RM70.5mil) on real estate in Dubai.

Both were sanctioned in 2023 for misappropriating US government aid, allegedly siphoning off millions of dollars in American reconstruction funds after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Nikkei Asia reported on May 15 that the leak contained the names of several people linked to sanctioned terrorist organisations.

They include Adham Tabaja, an alleged member of fighter group Hezbollah; Qatari-based Ali al-Banai, who is believed to be part of an international network helping to finance Hezbollah’s operations; and Ali Osseiran, who is allegedly facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah through art businesses.

They all own properties in Dubai, including Ali Osseiran, who has a unit in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The Rolling Stone on May 14 identified several drug lords among those named in the leak.

It reported that Asadullah Khalid, a drug lord and war criminal, had purchased a home in Dubai. The former Afghan government official also owns a villa there, which he rented out for tens of thousands of dollars every month.

Uruguayan drug cartel leader Sebastian Marset, who is wanted by authorities across South America, was also identified as a property owner.

The leak also revealed that a pair of cryptocurrency scammers, linked to the US$4bil (RM18.8bil) OneCoin fraud case, managed to liquidate their Dubai properties even though they were facing criminal charges in the United States.

As part of the Dubai Unlocked project, ST reported on May 17 that money-laundering accused Su Jianfeng had allegedly worked with a Singapore-based businessman to sell properties in Dubai worth tens of millions of dollars to foreigners in Singapore.

Checks by ST found that he owned 12 properties in Dubai, valued at around S$21.4mil (RM74.9mil). He currently faces a total of 12 charges.

Lin Baoying, another person linked to the money-laundering case who faces three charges, was found to own a villa in Dubai valued at S$9.5mil (RM33.25mil).

Convicted money launderer Su Haijin, who was sentenced to 14 months’ jail by the Singapore courts in April, owns 11 units spanning the entire 58th floor of the Grande Downtown, a luxury condominium that offers unobstructed views of the Burj Khalifa.

Several others, who similarly own entire floors of apartments in the same building, lived in Singapore until recently. They left the country around the time the 10 foreigners linked to the S$3bil (RM10.5bil) money-laundering case were arrested.

Officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) rubbished the reports in the Khaleej Times on May 15.

The Emirati broadsheet quoted an unnamed official who said that the UAE is committed to fighting money laundering.

The official pointed out that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had taken the UAE off its grey list in February 2024.

The FATF, which is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, places jurisdictions on the grey list if they are working to resolve “strategic deficiencies within agreed timeframes”.

These countries are subject to increased monitoring by the watchdog.

In response to queries from OCCRP, the UAE Embassy in Oslo said it is committed to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

“The UAE takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system extremely seriously,” the embassy said. — The Straits Times/ANN

Pandora Paper created quite a commotion in Malaysia with Tun Daim and wife Toh Puan Naemah flogging the headlines at only the initial stage of his investigation. Will Dubai Unlocked promises to be more alarming?   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the reason why Dubai will collapse