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Located between the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal, the new court is part of a larger effort by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to increase the country’s competitiveness as an international financial centre. After the introduction of a national action plan on financial crime in the UAE, the execution of which would be supervised by a new executive office on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), this announcement was made.

Among the proactive measures and initiatives that the UAE has put in place in recent years are the enhancement of the anti-money laundering legislative framework and increased efforts to cooperate with neighbouring states in the GCC and beyond in the exchange of intelligence and knowledge, according to the minister. “While it is not yet apparent how the court will function in reality, the establishment of a specialised court in this area is critical since AML matters are by their very nature complicated and intertwined. Better enforcement would come from the establishment of a specialised court whose justices possess the necessary competence and a track record in deciding comparable cases.”

The United Arab Emirates and its neighbouring Saudi Arabia have been collaborating closely on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing efforts. Last month, Khaled Balama, the governor of the UAE Central Bank, travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Fahad Al-Mubarak, the governor of the Saudi Central Bank and the chairman of the Saudi AML Permanent Committee, to discuss financial inclusion. In August 2019, the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit and its Saudi equivalent signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their desire to work closely together on anti-money-laundering (AML) investigations.

There are a number of international and bilateral treaties that the UAE has signed, notably with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, that promote improved supervisory cooperation and mutual legal aid. It is also a member of the Terrorist Financing Target Center (TFTC), which was formed in 2017 and is co-led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.

In April, the UAE announced new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) rules that were directed at financial institutions, specified non-financial companies, and professions.

Bono stated that the UAE’s cash-intensive economy and huge expatriate population, as well as the size and accessibility of the country’s financial sector and its geographic position, were all “risk factors” that made the country susceptible to money laundering and terrorist financing.

“The UAE is also involved in gold, precious metals, and diamond trade, which adds to the country’s risk profile from a money laundering and counter-terrorist financing perspective,” she said. The importance of companies and government officials being fully informed on the specific aggravating variables that lead to greater exposure cannot be overstated.

“The specialised court, which will be staffed by judges with specific expertise in financial crime,” Taresh Al Mansouri, director-general of Dubai Courts, said. “The dedicated court will enhance judicial efficiency.”

The reporting of money laundering offences is both an individual and a societal duty, according to the official statement. “Society has an important role to play in ensuring economic and social security and in supporting the efforts of different stakeholders in the fight against such crimes.”