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International Inquiry: Dubai Functions as a Key Center for Drug Lords Worldwide

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A global investigation has revealed that Dubai is a lucrative hub for international drug lords, highlighting the UAE’s ongoing scandals involving money laundering and mercenaries, which have led to repeated international sanctions.

The investigation, published by the Belgian newspaper “Lesoir”, revealed shocking details about prominent drug lords of different nationalities resorting to residing in Dubai, buying real estate and laundering money there.

The investigation focused in particular on the lucrative businesses of drug lords wanted in Belgium under the name (Dubai Opened).

The investigation said that several major drug traffickers, who have come under the radar of Belgian authorities, have been able to buy, rent and sell villas and apartments in Dubai in recent years, making generous capital gains in the process.

The report stated that Dubai attracts people with questionable histories largely because the emirate is unwilling to assist foreign judicial requests and imposes no constraints on money laundering.

The investigation dealt with the residence of one of the most wanted fugitives in Europe in Dubai, and the evidence for this is that the European authorities have offered a reward of 200,000 euros to anyone who can arrest him.

He is Joseph Jonas Ledgers, also known as Paul Goss (32), depicted as the leader of cocaine smuggling into European ports and recognized as a significant figure in global drug trafficking.

He is also suspected of laundering the criminal proceeds of this large-scale trafficking.

According to the official wanted notice issued by the Netherlands, intercepted encrypted messages from Sky ECC show Paul Goss’ participation in laundering tens of millions of euros and hundreds of kilograms of gold, likely linked to cocaine sales.

In 2022, the Rotterdam Public Prosecutor requested sentences of up to 41 years for the 10 leaders of the Paul Goss gang, on charges of forming a criminal organization in drug trafficking.

The Paul Goss gang, known as “The Octopus,” previously had a record 4.2-ton shipment of cocaine, valued at approximately 120 million euros wholesale, seized in the port of Antwerp.

The publication of the Belgian investigation comes weeks after the American newspaper “The Wall Street Journal” published an international investigation in which it shed light on the reality of the Emirate of Dubai as a haven for billions of dirty money that flies without inspection.

The newspaper said in its investigation that flights from London Heathrow Airport to Dubai contain two major features for money laundering: one airport does not search outbound luggage in search of money and the other welcomes its bags.

Last April, a European parliamentary vote resulted in retaining the UAE on the European watch list for countries involved in money laundering and supporting terrorism, dealing a fresh blow to Abu Dhabi’s efforts to improve its reputation.

Under the European Parliament’s vote, the UAE and Gibraltar will remain on the European Union’s watch list on the Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list.”

The decision posed a challenge for European member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which had removed the UAE from its watch list earlier this year.

Months ago, European oversight officials focused on combating money laundering and terrorist financing criticized the UAE government’s proclaimed steps against money laundering, urging Abu Dhabi to take more substantive actions beyond media gestures.

The officials pointed out that the UAE announced its intention to create “specialized prosecution offices” to combat money laundering after it was included on a list of countries subject to “tight supervision” regarding this issue.

The UAE authorities announced that the creation of specialized prosecution units marks “an initial step in investigating and addressing economic crimes and money laundering, aiming to boost investor confidence globally.”

But European officials confirmed that the UAE’s steps appear to be propaganda only and lack any practical foundations, including defining the powers granted to anti-money laundering prosecutors and holding senior officials involved accountable.

European supervisory officials specializing in anti-money laundering recommended keeping the UAE on the gray list for money laundering, opposing any upgrade in the UAE’s status, and advocating for the continuation of sanctions.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force placed the UAE on its gray list in March 2022, citing serious deficiencies in the UAE’s measures against sanctions evasion, terrorist financing, and other crimes.

This rating, which put Abu Dhabi just one step away from the dreaded FATF “blacklist”, was a major blow to the reputation of the largest financial center in the Middle East, and also threatened to weaken the country’s long-term credit rating, although that has not happened yet.

The potential long-term risk to the UAE’s status as a business hub has prompted financial officials there to pursue the swift removal of this classification, pledging to implement “strong measures” in response.