3 September 2008

Fraud Alert: Dubai safe haven for fraudsters and money launderers?

Dutch spy incident links Dubai with money laundering, European drug syndicates and real estate fraud orchestrated by a (former) anti terrorism intelligence officer while identifying criminal money flows.

Amsterdam, 03 September 2008 -- The UAE is an important crossroads for businesses and, as a result, also for crime. It relies heavily on the entry of international businesses to Dubai and the scale of some of the new real estate projects makes them entirely dependent upon foreign business investment. There are simply not enough local firms to justify the ambitious structures being built.

Dubai has become one of the hottest real estate spots in the world. Dubai’s drive to become one of the major tourist attractions in the world and to attract the rich and famous as residents has resulted in an unprecedented real estate boom.
All these hotels, condos, islands and villa’s have to be built and for that to happen you need money, a lot of money.

Such circumstances offer vast opportunities for less scrupulous citizens. Enter the world of money laundering and fraud.

Real estate investments have long been a preferred way for crime to channel illegally retained funds (drug trafficking, gun smuggling, corruption, etc.) into the regular economy, also referred to as money laundering.
Many countries have taken serious measures to prevent criminal money from entering their real estate markets.
It seems Dubai still has a long way to go.

To be able to launder money you need means to transfer illegally retained funds from one hand to another, from one country to another country. Transferring cash money has become very difficult. The only way is through banks.

The Dutch spy incident, were special agent Malika K. turned from excellent infiltrator and anti terrorist expert into a money launderer for the major drug rings in Europe, showed that even today banks of name and fame are willing to transfer such funds. Malika used Swiss banks to transfer tens of millions of Euros from European crime syndicates to Dubai.
Malika suposedly heads an organization that collects criminal funds all over Europe, transfers the funds through European banks to Dubai, and invests the funds in Dubai real estate.

In Dubai, Malika K. works for Define Properties, a company that was recently set up with money from a well known Egyptian arms trader.
Define Properties gives Malika a perfect cover to funnel the collected illegal funds into the booming real estate market of Dubai. The illegal funds are used to invest in property which is than sold at a profit. Now the illegal funds have become legal.
As a (former) anti terrorism intelligence officer Malika has access to a vast network that supports her in her illegal practices.

Before Define Properties Malika K. worked with Omniyat were she was responsible for another well known Dubai real estate decease: fraud.
This Dubai decease has many faces, but what is most concerning and damaging Dubai's image is the fact that it affects honest people, with honest jobs and honestly earned money.

Over the years we received many questions and complaints from concerned investors about real estate offers from Dubai. Most offers were coloured with tax free, beautiful weather, high returns and low crime figures.
Doctors, architects, engineers and other white-collar professionals are being conned.

Researching the offers and sales pitches we identified some that smear Dubai's image:

-Real estate agreements many times resold at a profit while construction wasn't even started. In some cases there were only fantastic architectural drawings and models and but land was never bought to build it on or there were no roads to the development.
-Hundreds of millions laundered with agreements for delivery of constructions that will or can not be finished.
-The UAE is implementing rules and regulations to prevent fraud and money laundering, but unfortunately it is not enough (yet) able to check all offers, and in particular the companies and expatriates that offer projects to the public outside the UAE.
-Agreements with guarantee. The first buyer is guaranteed for the basic investment or completion. This implies that the first buyer will see project completion or will get his money back if the development fails for some reason.
But a large chunk of those first buyers look for a quick profit and are not interested in completion, they sell their rights at a handsome profit.
Some contracts have changed beneficiaries 4-5 times at "market value". The second, third, fourth and fifth party that bought at "market value" only has the initial guarantee of the first beneficiary leaving them with nothing.

Although our research shows that there still is much to be improved in Dubai's booming real estate market, Dubai has recently started a crackdown on persons and businesses it suspects of being involved in fraud and money laundering.