Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden signed a declaration of intent on police cooperation with the United Arab Emirates in Dubai on Saturday in order to better combat organized crime.
The country on the Arabian Peninsula is the most important foreign destination for suspicious financial flows. According to the Financial Information Processing Unit (CTIF) Annual Report 2020, they affected a total of 35 million euros or 11% of the total amount of suspicious money transactions abroad. The CTIF analyzes show that the amounts involved are often large. There are different offenses (illegal trade in diamond goods and raw materials, serious tax evasion and drug trafficking) and different modi operandi are applied (including complex investments in real estate, founding opaque companies, etc.).
fight against drugs
The agreement is of particular importance in the fight against drugs, which regularly rocks Antwerp. The federal police have established a connection between the mass importation of narcotics on the one hand and the creation and installation of illegal and criminal assets in the Emirates on the other. The criminals present in this country hide their actions under a legitimate economic activity. There, the regulations for establishing assets are much more flexible, so that we are now also experiencing money laundering through luxury products, according to a press release from the minister.
A number of suspects for whom arrest warrants have been issued in Belgium in connection with drug trafficking live in the Emirates. To this end, a mutual legal assistance agreement and an extradition agreement were concluded in December 2021. The Police Protocol will intensify this cooperation by sharing information and expertise in this area.
However, in the eyes of the Belgian authorities, this cooperation is experiencing a major failure. Courts in the Emirates have repeatedly rejected extradition requests for Nordin El Hajjioui, a man suspected of being a drug lord in Antwerp who has taken refuge in Dubai. Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès discussed the case in an interview with her counterpart, Abdallah ben Zayed Al Nahyana.