UAE’s Ministry of Economy enforces companies to reveal beneficiary info

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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UAE Ministry of Economy
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The Ministry of Economy in the UAE has launched a campaign to ensure that over 500,000 non-financial businesses in the country submit data on their ultimate beneficiaries.

Ms. Safeya Al Safi, Director of the Ministry’s anti-money laundering department said that property brokers, account auditors, precious metals and gemstone dealers, and corporate services providers are being urged to register the needed information before the campaign concludes on June 30.

Ms. Al Safi remarked that declaring a company’s ultimate beneficiary is “one of the main requirements for completing disclosure and transparency requirements from enterprises and individuals within the anti-money laundering system in the country.”

“The ministry seeks to enhance understanding and raise awareness among these establishments about the dangers of money laundering, their methods, and means of protection against it,” she added.

For designated non-financial businesses and professionals, or DNFBPs, registering with the anti-money laundering system is a requirement, but it is not the only one, Ms. Al Safi noted.

The UAE has tough laws in place to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism and has released a slew of rules in recent years to bolster its fight against financial crime.

Earlier this year, the country formed the Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing, an agency to tackle money launderers, entities, and individuals accused of financing terrorists and organized crime.

The Ministry of Economy established an anti-money laundering department in November, and an anti-money laundering court was formed in Abu Dhabi to tackle money laundering and tax evasion.

To improve monitoring of money transfers, the UAE Central Bank urged all hawala providers informal fund transfer intermediaries operating outside the banking system to register with the regulator last year.

Ms. Al Safi said money laundering operations “lead to lower rates of real growth, destabilization of financial and banking systems, instability of prices and a weakening of capital and productive sectors”.

Officials said that the ministry may add other sectors and professions to the current list of brokers, real estate agents, auditors, precious metals and gemstone dealers, and corporate service providers required to submit details of their ultimate beneficiaries.

“The law allows that,” said Mr. Mohammed Jannahi, Head of Money Laundering Control at the Ministry.

During the campaign, the ministry intends to register 513,000 businesses that have been licensed by 38 different authorities. Those who fail to provide the essential information will face penalties of up to $27,229 starting in July, according to Mr. Ahmed Al Hosni, Director of Commercial Registration at the Ministry.

The ultimate beneficial owner, according to the ministry, is a person who possesses direct or indirect ownership of at least 25 percent of a company’s capital or the right to vote on 25 percent or more of its shares.

Mr. Al Hosni stated that data collected by government institutions will be treated with the “highest levels of confidentiality.”

“It will not be used for any commercial purposes, and even the employees of these government entities do not have free access to this data except in cases of investigations and for the required disclosure to specific official entities, according to strict internal policies and regulations,” Mr. Jannahi added.

To reduce money laundering risks, officials from the ministry urged companies to conduct thorough due diligence on their clients and complete know-your-customer processes.

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