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Dubai Unlocked: Is Dubai really a safe haven for fugitives?

Dubai Unlocked: Is Dubai really a safe haven for fugitives?  Interpol & Extradition expert, Radha Stirling, the founder of Detained in Dubai, looks into it.

The intriguing results of the OCCRP report entitled “Dubai Unlocked” has confirmed Dubai as a hotspot investment destination for celebrities, politicians, former presidents and of course, for international fugitives, but the report raises many complex questions such as “who decides who should or shouldn’t have a property in the UAE and should the UAE be placed on a financial grey list for its seemingly lax regulations?”



Certainly, Dubai has provided safe haven to a number of individuals wanted by countries abroad but who have not committed any crimes locally but Interpol & extradition expert and founder of Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling asks, “is it really as safe as has been made out? After all, British citizen Sanjay Shah was extradited to Denmark, Christian Michel to India and numerous others over the past several years.


“We field a lot of complaints from governments and investigators that the UAE is not cooperating with certain extradition requests and it can appear to some that the Emirates provides an absolute safe haven for fugitives, but this is simply not true. The UAE has complied with many extradition requests, including high value targets and some of those extraditions have been unfortunate for the individuals facing wrongful charges.



“The extradition process in Dubai is both a legal and a diplomatic process. If the UAE feels the extradition is of some benefit to them, they are more likely to comply. The higher value the target, the more quid pro quo will be expected and thus, this can thwart efforts.


“It’s also complicated by a lack of extradition treaties and a lack of reciprocity from other countries who have treaties in existence. The UK, for example, regularly denies extraditions based on human rights issues. The UAE is therefore not going to feel very compelled to agree to the UK’s requests. However, that’s a fair price to pay since British citizens should be protected from unfair treatment and they should remain the priority.


“Wanted persons, though, are not all guilty as perceived. Should they feel they’re unsafe or at potential risk of unfair persecution, jurisdictional overreach or imprisonment, there are extra steps they can take to protect themselves while in Dubai. For people in this position, neutral countries are a necessity for protection.”



The Financial Action Task Force (FATF)


“Pressuring the UAE with greylisting has resulted in increased regulation but as we can see from the Dubai Unlocked report, has perhaps not had the desired effect and any sanctioning of the UAE would sabotage building long term relations. The UAE knows its important strategic position as a security and trade partner and may begin to resent FATF targeting. Such resentment may lead to stronger alliances being built with other countries. The UAE is in a position to push back and may not appreciate what it perceives to be bullying from the US and allies.”


Sanctions & Jurisdiction Overreach


“We must remember that different countries sanction different individuals, organisations and countries. Unless the UAE has sanctioned someone, they are not required to adhere to another country’s policies and visa versa.


“The US in particular has trended in indicting foreign citizens for violating US sanctions abroad and then seeking to extradite them. What other country gets away with that? Saudi Arabia recently denied the extradition of UK citizen Christopher Emms to the United States for allegedly violating US sanctions in visiting a crypto conference in Pyongyang. He was not a US citizen, did not violate British sanctions or international law. The extradition process should not be misused in this way by the US or any other country. Similarly, the US for example, has no right to tell the UAE to disallow US sanctioned individuals from owning real estate in the UAE.



EU list of “high risk third countries”


In April, the European Parliament voted to keep the UAE on the “high risk third countries” list after having been removed from the FATF greylist saying “Those who circumvent sanctions against Russia should not be rewarded with removal from the EU list.”


“The UAE should not be bullied into adhering to other country’s sanctions and in the same way, the West will not submit to the UAE’s sanctions."


Balancing criminal enforcement


While the UAE may extradite fugitives in order to strengthen alliances or as a quid pro quo, we are decades away from removing wasta (VIP influence) style protection from powerful individuals. Even changes in regulations will be more of a public relations effort than an enforcement policy, depending on the status of the individual and local political motivations.





 

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