UAE Funding of Terrorism Factsheet

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Yemen

  • This year, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) funding of terrorists in Yemen has been revealed;
  • UAE has made “secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash … hundreds more were recruited to join the (Saudi-UAE-led) coalition itself.” Associated Press;
  • A CNN report revealed that US arms sold to the Emiratis were diverted to groups on the US terrorist list including al-Qaida-linked fighters, Salafi militias and factions linked to Iran, in violation of their agreements with the United States;
  • A New York Times report stated that a Yemeni commander who had been put on the US terrorism list for his al-Qaida ties in 2018 continued to receive money from the UAE to run a militia.
  • In an Associated Press investigation, Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation described much of the so-called war on al-Qaida by the UAE and its allied militias as a “farce.”
  • Horton: “It is now almost impossible to untangle who is AQAP (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) and who is not since so many deals and alliances have been made”.

Long-term Involvement

  • UAE involvement in terrorism goes back much further, and its role in laundering money for the terrorists was identified in the 9/11 Commission’s report;
  • The 9/11 Commissioner’s report labelled the UAE “ambivalent and selectively cooperative in assisting the United States” in its efforts to stop al-Qaida;
  • A leaked 2009 US diplomatic cable titled TERRORIST FINANCE: ACTION REQUEST FOR SENIOR LEVEL ENGAGEMENT ON TERRORISM FINANCE revealed: “UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups, including Hamas… Washington agencies note, however, that they have limited information on the identity of Taliban and LeT donors and facilitators in the UAE…the point can be emphasized that the UAE’s role as a growing global financial center, coupled with weak regulatory oversight, makes it vulnerable to abuse by terrorist financiers and facilitation networks. From Wikileaks;
  • While the UAE is keen to present itself as a friend of western democracies, its regional ambitions mean that it often takes shortcuts to undermining Iran via terrorist groups proscribed in the west.

Money Laundering

  • In 2018 David Aufhauser, a former legal adviser to the U.S. Treasury during the first term of President George W. Bush, accused the UAE of being the main hub for the transfer of funds used in terrorist acts;
  • Referring to the vast sums that are transferred out of the UAE by expat workers, Aufhauser questioned the “ability of the UAE authorities to monitor all these financial operations”;
  • A 2019 Forbes magazine report quoted anti-corruption group Transparency International as labelling the UAE a “money laundering paradise”
  • And Reuters reported that the UAE is one of 17 countries on the European Union’s tax haven blacklist;
  • A recent report released by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies shone a light on Dubai’s role as a safe haven for money launderers, with some of the money invested in the Emirate suspected of coming from illicit activities including drug trafficking and terrorism.

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