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New Pandora Papers revelations on shady UAE deals

Arabian Post Staff

Pandora Papers have made fresh disclosures about a trove of secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, revealing that the UAE is home to a raft of shady players in the offshore world.

Among them: A Belgian tycoon accused of profiting from the smuggling of “conflict gold” ripped from violence-torn regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. An internet mogul from Quebec convicted in the United States of money laundering that authorities said shifted $250 million for fraudsters, child porn traffickers and other criminals. A 26-year-old crime kingpin whose “dark web” internet site peddled guns, stolen financial information, counterfeit documents, toxic chemicals and huge quantities of illegal drugs — including heroin and fentanyl linked to overdose deaths across the U.S.

The story of the offshore companies created within Dubai’s corporate enclave casts fresh light on Dubai’s rise as one of the world’s financial capitals— and on the UAE’s role as a nexus for money laundering and other financial crimes, according to Pandora Papers.

It says the UAE is home to a thriving trade in financial secrecy. It offers shell companies that mask their real owners’ identities; dozens of internal free-trade zones that provide even more shadows for them to hide in; and a regulatory system known for what anti-corruption advocates call its “ask-no-questions, see-no-evil approach” to dealing with money tied to gold smuggling, arms trafficking and other crimes.

“The UAE provides secrecy, complexity and control,” Graham Barrow, a money laundering expert and co-host of The Dark Money Files podcast, told ICIJ. “It’s a perfect storm. An invitation to criminals to make the most of it.”

The more than 11.9 million files in the Pandora Papers include some 190,000 confidential files from a UAE-based firm that has billed itself as “the World’s #1 Offshore Company Formation Provider.” It has been cited as one of thousands of firms in the Emirates that help clients incorporate companies, including hard-to-track companies for people living and doing business outside of the UAE. These company formation providers are part of a global web of lawyers, accountants and other operatives who make the offshore financial system possible.

ICIJ’s review identified the owners of at least 2,977 companies in the UAE, the British Virgin Islands and other offshore financial centers that were incorporated with this company’s help or received other services from it The owners of these companies include the Belgian gold tycoon, the internet mogul, the dark web impressario and more than 20 other people accused of financial crimes and other wrongdoing around the world, ICIJ research found.

The company said in a statement that it operates in a manner that is “absolutely legal in every aspect. SFM abides by the applicable laws and regulations in every jurisdiction it operates in.”

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