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Money laundering, a global financial crime, poses a significant threat to economies and financial systems. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), known for its dynamic business environment, is actively combating money laundering through robust regulations and measures.

This article delves into the crime of money laundering in the UAE and highlights essential precautions and compliance measures to ensure businesses adhere to the anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

Understanding Money Laundering in the UAE

To institutionalize its stringent efforts in the field, the Central Bank of the UAE established a dedicated Department in August 2020 to handle all matters pertaining to Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (“AML”/”CFT”).

Federal Decree-law No. (20) of 2018 lays an outline On Anti-Money Laundering And Combating The Financing Of Terrorism And Financing Of Illegal Organisations.

anti Money Laundering in dubai: Any of the acts mentioned in Article (2) of the present Decree-Law.

1- Any person, having the knowledge that the funds are the proceeds of a felony or a misdemeanour, and who wilfully commits any of the following acts, shall be considered a perpetrator of the crime of Money Laundering:

  • Transferring or converting proceeds or conducting any transaction with the aim of concealing or disguising their Illegal source.
  • Concealing or disguising the true nature, source or location of the proceeds, or the method involving the disposition, movement or ownership of the Proceeds or rights related thereto.
  • Acquiring, possessing or using proceeds upon receipt.
  • Assisting the perpetrator of the predicate offense to escape punishment.

2- The crime of Money Laundering is considered as an independent crime. The punishment of the perpetrator for the predicate offence shall not prevent his punishment for the crime of Money Laundering.

3- Proving the illicit source of the proceeds should not constitute a prerequisite to sentencing the perpetrator of the predicate offence.

“Funds” as “assets in whatever form, whether tangible, intangible, movable or immovable including national currency, foreign currencies, documents or notes evidencing the ownership of those assets or associated rights in any forms including electronic or digital forms or any interests, profits or income originating or earned from these assets.” They likewise define “proceeds” as “funds generated directly or indirectly from the commitment of any crime or felony including profits, privileges, and economic interests, or any similar funds converted wholly or partly into other funds.”

In order to be considered money laundering, it is not necessary for any of the above-stipulated acts to involve only money or monetary instruments per se, but any number of tangible or intangible assets such as, but not limited to:

  • Funds bank or other financial accounts, including virtual or so-called cryptocurrencies;
  • Financial instruments or securities, such as shares, bonds, notes, commercial paper, promissory notes, IOUs, share warrants, options, rights (including land rights), or other transferrable securities or bearer negotiable instruments;
  • Contracts, loan instruments, titles, claims, insurance policies, or their assignment;
  • Intellectual property (including but not limited to patents or registered trademarks), royalties, licenses, or the rights thereto;
  • Physical property, including but not limited to commodities, land, precious metals and stones, motor vehicles or vessels, works of art, or any other goods exchanged as payment-in-kind.

The size or monetary value of the financial or commercial transaction, the timeframe during which it took place, and the nature of the funds or proceeds (whether in liquid funds or some other tangible or intangible asset) are irrelevant to the suspicion and reporting of a money laundering offence.

The suspicion of money laundering is not dependent on proving that a predicate offense has actually occurred or on proving the illicit source of the proceeds involved, but can be inferred from certain information, including indicators or behavioral patterns.

Read more about What is an example of money laundering in Dubai?

Precautions and Measures for AML Compliance

  • Implement stringent KYC procedures to verify the identity of customers and understand the nature of their business. Collect and maintain accurate customer information, including identification documents, business activities, and beneficial ownership details.
  • Conduct thorough CDD on high-risk customers, politically exposed persons (PEPs), and complex transactions. Regularly update customer information and assess risk profiles to detect unusual activities.
  • Develop a robust risk assessment framework that evaluates the potential risks associated with customers, products, services, and geographic locations. This proactive approach helps tailor AML measures based on identified risks.
  • Establish internal mechanisms for employees to report suspicious transactions. Maintain clear guidelines for recognizing red flags and reporting unusual or suspicious activities to the relevant authorities.
  • Train employees on AML regulations, red flag indicators, and reporting procedures. An informed workforce is essential in preventing and detecting money laundering activities.
  • Implement advanced transaction monitoring systems to identify patterns of suspicious behavior. Regularly review and analyze transactions to detect unusual or high-risk activities.
  • Maintain comprehensive records of transactions, customer interactions, and due diligence processes. These records serve as evidence of compliance and can aid in investigations.
  • Develop and enforce robust internal AML policies, procedures, and controls. Regularly update these measures to adapt to evolving risks and regulatory changes.
  • Comply with reporting obligations by submitting relevant reports to the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in a timely manner. This includes suspicious activity reports (SARs) and transaction reports.
  • Collaborate with international law enforcement agencies and financial institutions to share information and combat cross-border money laundering activities.


Combatting money laundering is a collective effort that requires the commitment of financial institutions, businesses, and regulatory authorities. The UAE’s comprehensive AML regulations reflect its determination to maintain financial integrity and protect its economy.

By implementing robust AML measures, conducting thorough due diligence, and fostering a culture of compliance, businesses can contribute to the UAE’s efforts to prevent money laundering and ensure a transparent and secure financial environment.