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OPINION

Anti-money laundering: Diamonds in Dubai

Money laundering is surely one of the most persistent and pervasive risks faced by banks. The practice is said to be just as common in the Middle East as anywhere else. So how do financial institutions there train their staff to deal with this threat?

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A recent visit to Kuwait City provided an unlikely insight. As Euromoney waited to meet employees of a leading financial services company in the firm’s board room, we spotted a sheet of paper lying on a table.

On it figured the following scenario: “You are visiting Dubai and are staying [at] a budget hotel in Bur Dubai.” So far, so Euromoney.

“In the hotel, while trying to get the shower to work, you accidentally discover a carry bag full of Russian roubles in a hidden panel in your Hotel bathroom.” Oh!

“You estimate there must be about a US$1.0mln-worth of roubles in that big carry bag.” Someone must be used to making such calculations…

The text ends: “You have an unavoidable return flight to catch the next day morning back to Kuwait as your visa is expiring. You have about 24 hours. What will you do?”

The firm’s employees eventually arrive. They explain that staff received anti-money laundering training the previous day and did not clear the table after the session. They also describe the answer one of the board members gave: “I’d convert the money into diamonds; that way it’d be easier to ship out of Dubai.” A joke, Euromoney is certain.

When the tale is repeated to the chief executive of a Kuwaiti bank, he rolls his eyes and sighs. “That’s not money laundering training, that’s just basic ethics!” He is astonished anyone would need to be taught what to do in such a case. 

For the avoidance of doubt, the correct answer was: contact Dubai’s authorities.