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Licences of 200 UAE law firms suspended over breaches in anti-money laundering regulations

Two hundred law firms had their licences suspended for a month by the UAE's Ministry of Justice for breaching anti-money laundering regulations.
The firms failed to appoint a compliance officer, fill out a questionnaire relating to money-laundering laws or update their data as requested.
The suspensions were handed down last week.
On Tuesday, the ministry said the penalties also included fines ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh5 million.
It called on law firms to take whatever measures necessary to ensure anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing obligations are fufilled.
Law firms are legally obliged to penalise offenders under Federal Decree 20 of 2018, which relates to money laundering.
Officials organised online meetings and workshops to explain the importance of the measures after regulations were updated in August.
Lawyers were told how the mandatory safeguards were part of wider efforts to prevent firms being used in money-laundering schemes.
The measures include ensuring that suspected financial crimes by lawyers were reported to authorities.
On September 22, law firms were urged to visit the smart lawyers system on the ministry’s website, elawyer.moj.gov.ae, or check with the anti-money laundering department to ensure they were in compliance with regulations.
A three-day grace period was granted to practices and the ministry warned of penalties for those who failed to adopt the measures
On Tuesday, the ministry said the suspension of the 200 law firms would be lifted once lawyers in charge of the department's legal management office could prove they fulfilled their obligations under Ministerial Resolution 533 of 2019 on combating money laundering.
"The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is of utmost priority for the UAE, with a Ministerial Higher Committee overseeing the National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism being established under the chairship of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation," a statement from the ministry read.
Zayed Al Shamsi, chairman of the Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal Consultants, called on lawyers to contact the ministry and ensure they were following the measures.
Mr Al Shamsi said some of the practices involved had since had their suspensions lifted after complying with the directives.
“The status of more than 65 law firms was modified, allowing them to practise after they complied with the decisions of the Ministry of Justice,” he tweeted on Sunday.
The United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the amount of money laundered globally in one year is between 2 to 5 per cent of global GDP, or $800 billion - $2 trillion in current US dollars.
Though the margin between those figures is huge, even the lower estimate underlines the seriousness of the problem.
Last month, the UAE Central Bank said it was committed to strengthening the local banking sector to combat all types of financial crimes.
CBUAE will continue to work alongside central banks and monetary authorities to develop plans and policies aimed at swiftly and effectively responding to crises," said Abdulhamid Alahmadi, governor of the Central Bank of the UAE.

The National News