Financial crime leads to billions of lost business in Middle East, survey finds

Some 45 percent of MENA respondents in a Thomson Reuters survey had been a victim of financial crime as opposed to 47 percent globally. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Financial crime leads to billions of lost business in Middle East, survey finds

  • Some 45 percent of MENA respondents in Thomson Reuters victims of fraud, corruption and bribery
  • 77 percent of MENA respondents deliberately avoided customers, suppliers, countries or industries viewed as most exposed to financial crime.

LONDON: Middle Eastern companies are losing billions of dollars in business opportunities because of fears about financial crime, according to a Thomson Reuters survey published on Thursday.

Concern about the possibility of severe financial and reputational damage due to regulatory breaches leads foreign investors and firms to shun companies and entire regions where they see “heightened risk.”

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), 77 percent of survey respondents said that they deliberately avoided customers, suppliers, countries or industries which they viewed as most exposed to financial crime.

“The impact in terms of lost opportunities at both organizational and national level is difficult to quantify, but likely to impact productivity and economic development,” Thomson Reuters said.

The report was conducted online by an independent third party in March 2018. More than 2,000 senior managers at large global organizations completed the survey, from 19 countries.

In a hard-hitting conclusion, the report said: “For the first time our research has put a price on financial crime: three and a half percent of corporate turnover for the 2,373 large companies in our survey alone. That adds up to a staggering $1.45 trillion.”

Financial crime was said to blight individual lives and undermine the ability of governments to provide key services such as education and health. The IMF has shown that it reduces economic growth and social cohesion.

Che Sidanius, global head of financial crime regulation at Thomson Reuters, said that financial crime caused “incalculable” harm around the world. The proceeds of activities spanning bribery, corruption, fraud, and narcotics trafficking have been implicated in the financing of terrorism, human rights abuses such as slavery and child labor, and environmental crime.

“This has serious economic and social costs in terms of the lost revenues to national exchequers that could be invested in social development, and in terms of the impact on individual lives,” Sidanius said.

Other key findings were that 45 percent of MENA respondents had been a victim of financial crime as opposed to 47 percent globally; 96 percent believed that bribery and corruption was an important issue to tackle; 57 percent indicated that the consequences of bribery and corruption meant less government revenue; only 59 percent said that they fully conducted due diligence; and only 60 percent fully conducted due diligence, the report said.


Dubai regulators move against Abraaj Capital

Updated 17 August 2018
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Dubai regulators move against Abraaj Capital

  • Dubai regulators have implemented a winding up order against Abraaj Capital stopping it from doing any new business in the emirate’s financial center
  • The DFSA said it has also stopped Abraaj Capital from moving funds to other parts of the group

DUBAI: Dubai regulators have moved against Abraaj Capital, the UAE arm of the beleaguered private equity group, implementing a winding up order against it and stopping it doing any new business in the emirate’s financial center.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority, the regulatory arm of the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), announced the moves after the DIFC Courts earlier this month received a petition to wind up the troubled firm under UAE insolvency laws.

The court has appointed two liquidators from the accounting firm Deloitte to oversee the winding up order.

“The DFSA will continue to take all necessary actions within its remit to protect the interests of investors and the DIFC,” the regulator said in a statement.

 

The DFSA also said it has stopped Abraaj Capital from moving funds to other parts of the group.


The DFSA has been monitoring events at the company since the scandal at Abraaj broke in February, involving redirection of investment funds to purposes for which they were not intended.

Only a relatively small part of Abraaj’s operations fall under the remit of the DFSA. Most of its business and assets are located in the Cayman Islands, the domicile for its ultimate holding company Abraaj Holdings Limited (AHL) and its main operation business Abraaj Investment Management. The Cayman entities are also going through liquidation procedures.

The DFSA said: “Given the onset of financial difficulties of the wider Abraaj Group, the DFSA has been closely monitoring the activities of its regulated entity ACL. The DFSA has taken regulatory actions over the past few months in order to safeguard the interests of investors and the DIFC.

“Given such actions and the current matters surrounding the Abraaj Group, the DFSA continues to monitor the limited financial services activities currently being undertaken by ACL,” it added.

ACL was authorized to conduct various financial services from DIFC, including managing assets and fund administration, but restricted to funds established by the firm or members of its group.

It could also advise on financial products, arranging deals in investments, and arranging and advising on credit.

It is unprecedented for the DFSA to comment on a case while it is still under investigation, but the application in the DIFC Courts on Aug. 1 presented an opportunity to address investors and DIFC members who were concerned about the scandal, which some observers believe has been damaging for Dubai’s reputation as a regional financial hub.

FACTOID

The Dubai Financial Services Authority has been monitoring events at Abraaj since a scandal emerged involving redirection of investment funds to purposes for which they were not intended.