Abu Dhabi, (Business News Report)|| Russian oligarchs, internationally wanted criminals and unscrupulous officials find refuge in Dubai thanks to the money laundering that booming real estate allows, according to a new report.
A survey entitled “Dubai Uncovered”, carried out by twenty international media, under the aegis of the financial media E24, revealed the identity of 274,000 owners of 800,000 properties located in Dubai.
The raw data underlying this survey, dated 2020, was provided by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), an American think tank made up of former American officers and academics that investigates crimes and international conflicts.
Until now, no one has had this kind of information about the whole real estate market in such a well-known tax haven, says Annette Alstadsæter, a professor of tax economics and director of the Skatteforsk Centre for Tax Research at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Although many of Dubai real estate owners are residents or legitimate investors, the report identified many of them who have been accused or convicted of crimes or are under international sanctions.
Others are public officials who have not declared their assets or whose ownership of pricey properties is difficult to square with their known incomes, according to the report.
The investigative journalists notably identified more than 100 members of the Russian political elite, civil servants or businessmen close to the Kremlin, “as well as dozens of Europeans involved in money laundering and corruption”.
Several European officials and lawmakers accused of mismanagement of public funds are also among the listed owners, some of whom have not officially declared their properties in Dubai.
Notable people who own real estate in Dubai include Ruslan Baisarov, a Russian businessman close to Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, and Alexander Borodai, a sanctioned member of the Russian Duma known internationally for becoming “Prime Minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
Among the European nationals named is Daniel Kinahan, the alleged member of an Irish criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking and other crimes. He is known to be based in Dubai and was sanctioned by the United States last month. Kinahan is on Europol’s radar and the US promises 5$ million for information allowing his capture or the blocking of his assets.
Another owner in Dubai is the Czech Tibor Bokor, executive director of a cryptocurrency company, sanctioned by the US Treasury last year for having allowed criminals who had obtained money through ransomware.
Miroslav Výboh, a Slovak fugitive accused of corruption, is another suspected criminal who is listed as the owner of real estate in Dubai. Investigative journalists believe he is hiding in the emirate.
A leaked Europol report last year details plans to target a number of expatriate crime bosses, described as ‘high-value targets’, for extradition, investigators said.
Dubai is one of the world’s most secretive offshore jurisdictions, mainly due to lack of financial transparency, according to The Tax Justice Network.
According to the document Dubai has emerged as a “key location for key organisers and money-laundering activities associated with the cocaine trade in the EU”.
the presence of these individuals on Dubai’s real estate market records highlights the danger that the emirate’s lax residency requirements and unrestrictive approach to regulation allow dubious figures in the use as a home away from home, a place to whiten their illicit gains, the document said.
“Real estate is unique when it comes to money laundering because, unlike any other form of money laundering, you actually can live in and do business through your money laundering,” says Jodi Vittori, a professor at Georgetown University and expert on illicit finance.
The most expensive villas and apartments in Dubai are on The Palm and in the Marina. Foreigners are listed as owners of more than 40,000 properties in these two areas.
The advocacy group ranks the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, as one of the world’s top ten enablers of both corporate tax abuse and financial secrecy.
The UAE Embassy in Oslo provided a statement to E24 and conglomerates of investigative journalism: “Allegations regarding Dubai land ownership records are factually inaccurate. The UAE applies clear regulatory frameworks consistent with international laws and standards designed to combat financial crime.”
Property development has been an important source of income for the Dubai, attracting foreign capital and wealthy individuals from around the world.
According to researchers who are preparing a more in-depth study, foreign individuals and companies have invested more than $145 billion in Dubai’s real estate market.
“This is the first time we have an actual evident sum of net worth of both offshore and locally owned properties in a tax haven,” says Gabriel Zucman, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley.