In efforts to comply with UN anti-terrorism policy and show a commitment to anti-terrorism, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) passed a law to curtail money laundering and terrorism financing on October 23. This piece of legislation comes after many decades of the UAE being scrutinized in the international sphere for aiding terrorists and having a lax militant financing policy, and serves as a fundamental pillar for countering terrorism in an area which has never seen such a law passed. The UAE expects this law to decrease militancy and paralyze international terrorism funding.
UAE Terrorism History
The United Arab Emirates has an unfortunate history of involvement with terrorism. Though there have been no official links to state sponsored terrorism, the nation has long been used by investors to raise money in support of militants in the Middle East. Despite efforts by the UAE government to enforce a zero tolerance policy on terrorism financing, there have been investors who slipped through the cracks.This policy criminalized the intentional provision or collection of funds to finance terrorism and asked United Nations General Assembly member states to uphold this policy, but many member states violated their obligations. Despite this policy, it is widely believed that the UAE has close ties to the 9/11 attacks and is linked to funding the terrorism cells that were involved, having been singled out for money laundering. However, the government adopted an antiterrorism mission in April 2015.
The UAE armed forces trained and equipped about 60,000 Yemeni forces in May of 2018 to fight Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This was the first official counterterrorism mission in the nation, albeit controversial. Both civilians and militants have been killed in the fight, including one particular strike which killed 44 school children in a bombing, causing some to question the mission’s legitimacy. Nevertheless, the UAE has been able to damage the AQAP in Yemen to such an extent that its ability to export terrorism internationally is now almost negligible. Still, there are many questions about the legitimacy of this mission, as the Associated Press in Yemen announced the the UAE was actually there to cut secret deals with Al Qaeda. These secret deals were rumored to pay off terrorists to leave certain cities, allowing Al Qaeda members to keep their lives and strengthen their regime with the newfound funds. The UAE has dramatically transitioned from a place that fostered terrorism to one that actively opposes it, though historical precedence implies that this transition may not be entirely effective or successful.
An undisputed step in the right direction for the UAE’s fight against terrorism came in the form of Federal Decree No. 20 of 2018. This law equips relevant agencies to detect and counter money-laundering crimes through the creation of a financial information unit to receive and investigate all reports submitted by financial institutions and other corporate establishments regarding suspected illicit financial activity. This unit will also share the information with relevant law enforcement agencies. Through changing the definition and the severity of money laundering, the UAE magnifies the offense as a prevention mechanism in the nation.This law redefines money laundering as “deriving money from a felony or misdemeanor, and intentionally committing one of the following acts: transferring proceeds of crime with intent to conceal the illicit origin” and stipulates that any person charged with money laundering will in addition, be charged with the predicate offense. This is coupled with the establishment of an independent branch of the central bank, with the sole purpose of receiving and investigating reports of alleged money laundering both domestically and internationally. These two facets to the law are aimed not only at eliminating domestic money laundering used for terrorism financing, but also for uprooting international money laundering, marking a step in the right direction towards the fight against state sponsored terrorism.
Eliza Farley is currently a freshman at Duke from New Canaan, Connecticut. She is studying economics and entrepreneurship.