Dubai has become one of the top-three diamond trading centres in the world following a surge of business in the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), the free zone authority that oversees trading in precious metals, stones and other commodities in the emirate.
Some 255 million carats of diamonds worth US$39 billion (Dh143.24bn) were traded last year, the DMCC said yesterday, an increase of 11.5 per cent over the previous year, putting Dubai behind only Antwerp and Mumbai among the world's gem-dealing hubs.
"We have just kept engaging with the customers and clientsand it has paid off," said.
"The assumption is that the Arab Spring and the European winter would make people spend less but we've seen the opposite effect."
The DMCC, which runs the mixed-use free zone in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), also announced a big increase in the value of gold traded in the emirate, up 35 per cent at $59bn, as the yellow metal soared on global markets.
In the first six months of the year, the DMCC registered 975 new companies, making a record total of more than 4,600 operating from the free zone.
The bulk of the new entrants are from India, one of the world's biggest markets for gold and precious stones.
Mumbai remains the second-biggest diamond centre in the world, after Antwerp in Belgium.
"We are finding that Indian companies are increasingly moving their central headquarters or opening branches in the DMCC," Mr bin Sulayem said.
"During DMCC's 10 years of operations we have seen unprecedented growth by developing the JLT free zone into a dynamic business and residential community while attracting over 4,600 businesses from across the globe," he added.
"Our strategy is to continue enhancing commodity trade flows through Dubai by enabling businesses to access new markets as they shift from west to east and north to south."
About 50,000 people live and work in the 61 towers of the free zone, while five more towers are expected to be completed this year.
Mr bin Sulayem said the property market in JLT was showing signs of increased demand, despite the new capacity."The two metro stations and the infrastructure around the development have added to the attractions of the location. People used to say it was too far out of the centre of Dubai but now that has changed and JLT is very close to the big attractions like the Palm Jumeirah and the Mall of the Emirates," he said.
Most of the property in JLT is owned by private investors and developers.
Mr bin Sulayem said he was confident the DMCC had adequate regulatory systems in place to oversee the rapid expansion of the free zone.
"We have our own compliance department that checks companies, shareholders and employees and we review those checks as ownership structures change. We also work closely with the other UAE regulators and adhere to international guidelines."
He added JLT was considering new "additions to make it more attractive to customers and residents".