Our Emirati “partners” must respect international financial legislation

It is always said that a good settlement is better than a bad process. The Golf recently was further proof of that. Thus, Qatar was restored to its rights in the face of several Emirati banks launching simultaneous attacks on the Qatari financial system following the eruption of the Emirati-Saudi-Bahrain-Egypt Quartet blockade on Doha on June 5, 2017.

Qatar has thus settled a lawsuit it filed in November 2020 against Emirates NBD Bank PJSC and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC after allegations that the two companies tried to devalue their national currency during the 2017 crisis. Several Abu Dhabi-based banks had orchestrated attacks on Doha’s economy during the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis in hopes of hurting their ability to host the 2022 World Cup. It was a genuine attempt to destabilize the country, which the country eventually recovered from.

tax haven

This is an example of the total opacity in which Abu Dhabi operates, already considered a phenomenal tax haven in the region, king of money laundering in the Gulf with Dubai, regularly blacklisted and exited by the European Union and constantly operating Financial transactions on the edge of legality.

The cases have followed one another for several years, revealing an Emirati confederation that cares little about complying with international rules on financial transparency. However, it is one of our privileged economic partners to sell them our weapons, fight terrorism, fight political Islam and continue to believe that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best example of exemplary development in the region. However, everything is far from clear: it has even become a religion.

Another rock in the pond had shaken the UAE’s financial standing in the summer of 2020. In fact, the case of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appeared to confirm the thesis that he had asked for the UAE’s assistance from the United Arab Emirates to cover up and launder a multi-billion dollar embezzlement on behalf of his company 1MDB[1]. Earlier, a wealthy Malaysian financier named Tek Joe, accused of the same charge, found refuge in the Emirates in late 2019. Razak, he claimed to be building economic partnerships to encourage investment between the two countries. Today Malaysia still has 42 charges against him.

The Dubai Papers affair

It was the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission that uncovered the very embarrassing existence of 2016 audio recordings between Razak and Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ), the crown prince and Emirati strongman, in a bid to find a solution and help. We hear Najib Razak ask MBZ for a personal favor to protect his son-in-law. Mohammed bin Zayed seems to accept this in the recording[2].

More facts: In May 2018, the Dubai Papers affair rocked the city again, revealing the ruthless existence of years of questionable financial practices. That’s exactly what happened in 2017 Dubai papersit was the establishment of a much larger system of tax havens in Dubai that Abu Dhabi will oppose for a time, relying in particular on the military and energy sectors to secure and not bleach its economy.

But the contagion has spread throughout the Confederacy. This MBZ-Razak affair proves that things have changed and that it is now the UAE’s all-powerful man, Mohamed Bin Zayed, who appears to be covering up state scandals from abroad and welcoming funds of all kinds, while turning a blind eye where they come from and where they come from.

With the recent case of moral condemnation of Emirati banks accused of destabilizing Qatar, this marks the end of a new, totally illegal, political and financial operation by the UAE against its regional rival, with whom reconciliation has since been more than just a front. Tensions remain palpable and this episode is one example among many of the war of influence that the two oil monarchies have waged since the Arab Spring.

This emerges from a Law360 report published last Monday[3]the case was settled on January 6, 2022 after Judge David Foxton signed the agreement at the High Court in London. In its first lawsuit, Qatar sought more than £100m (at least $136m) from Emirati banks after blaming them “unjustly enriched” by manipulating the indices of the Qatari riyal in New York.

Financial claims will not be dropped

Separately, Qatar had accused Emirates NBD Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank of causing harm to Doha and its citizens through interference “illegal” in its economic interests as early as July 2017. Several other court cases were brought by Qatar during the GCC crisis in a number of legal forums, including the International Court of Justice, but also the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Since the signing of Al Ula’s declaration on January 5, 2021, which spelled the end of the blockade crisis against Qatar, some lawsuits have been dropped, but not the financial ones.

The question that is clearly posed today is who do we choose to further develop our business relationships with, and ultimately do we choose to ethically curb it at some point. The United Arab Emirates are a key financial and military partner of France in the Middle East. This is reminiscent of the debate last winter in France following the conclusion of Emmanuel Macron’s sale of 80 gusts to Mohamed Ben Zayed. Knowing Abu Dhabi’s image on a financial level, should we sell to anyone at all costs? The question arises with regard to the policy that Abu Dhabi pursues within its borders towards its opponents, which since the Arab Spring has been exported significantly with our military equipment throughout the Middle East. All to the detriment of the people. We are not naïve, but should this continue? We must at least be able to lift the veil of Emirati reality.

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[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/28/1mdb-scandal-najib-razak-verdict-malaysia

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77_iQDVSIHU

[3] https://www.law360.com/corporate-crime-uk/articles/1455381/qatar-settles-100m-bank-suit-over-financial-market-attacks

Doctor of Political Science, Middle East Researcher, Euro-Arab Relations / Terrorism and Radicalization, Lecturer in International Relations, Research Associate at CECID (Free University of Brussels), OMAN