x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE raises undeclared cash limit to Dh100,000

The Central Bank says bringing the minimum declaration amount in line with global standards will reduce money laundering in the Emirates.

DUBAI // The amount of undeclared money travellers may carry into or out of the country is to be set at Dh100,000 to combat money laundering.

The regulation, which comes into force from September 1, will be the first time a limit has been put on how much cash a traveller can carry out of the country. However, it will also more than double the amount travellers are allowed to bring in, which is currently restricted to Dh40,000. The limit will apply either to dirhams or the equivalent value in another currency.

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The change is aimed at bringing the Emirates into line with international standards targeting money laundering.

“The UAE has a vibrant and a well-diversified open economy,” said Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, the governor of the Central Bank and chairman of the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee. “As a major trading and financial centre, the UAE attaches great importance to the regulatory environment.”

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Mr Al Suwaidi said a strong legal, regulatory and institutional framework had been put in place to tackle money laundering and combat the financing of terrorism.

The new restriction follows guidance from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris-based money laundering watchdog.

To curb criminal money flows, most countries around the world impose limits on the amount of undeclared cash travellers can carry.

Travellers to and from the EU must notify customs officials if they’re carrying €10,000 (Dh52,406) or more in cash.

The FATF admitted it was hard to put a figure on the amount of money laundered globally, due to the criminal nature of the activity.

However, based on International Monetary Fund statistics from 1996, between US$590 million (Dh2.16 billion) and $1.5 trillion is estimated to be laundered each year globally.

“Differences between national anti-money laundering systems will be exploited by launderers, who tend to move their networks to countries and financial systems with weak or ineffective countermeasures,” the FATF website said.

“Fighting money laundering and terrorist financing is therefore a part of creating a business-friendly environment, which is a precondition for lasting economic development.”

Some travellers were cautious in welcoming the plans.

“I can understand what the government is trying to do but I feel they should have made the limit higher, maybe at Dh200,000,” said a Pakistani businessman who travels abroad regularly on business, but did not wish to be named. “I prefer to take cash with me because I can get better deals on exchange rates in other countries.”

Imran Ali, a British national, said the changes made sense.

“When you see the laws in other countries, it makes sense for the UAE to go with the international consensus,” he said. “I think it will give more confidence to people who want to invest in the UAE because they can see that the authorities here are taking the issue seriously.”

The new rules are the culmination of work by the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee, The Central Bank, the Federal Customs Authority (FCA) and Customs departments across the country.

The FCA and the anti-money laundering and suspicious cases unit at the Central Bank have also pledged to improve cooperation on reports of suspicious transactions.