Two hundred law firms in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have had their licenses suspended for a month by the country’s Ministry of Justice for breaching anti-money laundering rules.
The suspensions were handed down last week along with fines ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh5million ($1.3m US Dollars).
The Ministry of Justice said the firms had failed to appoint a compliance officer, fill out a questionnaire relating to money-laundering laws or update their data as requested.
Regulations were updated in August in an attempt to ensure suspected financial crimes were reported to authorities. On September 22, law firms were urged to visit the ministry’s website 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.
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”s statement from the ministry said.
A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report on UAE in April noted that the country has “significantly strengthened relevant laws and regulations” and that the “elements of the an effective framework to detect and prevent criminals and terrorists from misusing the financial system are mostly in place.” However it raised concerns about the 39 different company registers in the UAE and the risk of misuse of legal persons that could arise.