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Money laundering flourishes in the UAE due to the Ukraine war

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American media shed light on how the UAE, specifically Dubai, is reviving money laundry operations following the war on Ukraine.

The CNBC website reported that since Western countries imposed a wave of sanctions on Russia after Vladimir Putin directed his forces to invade Ukraine on February 24, many Russians have moved to the UAE, where they can live without sanctions.

Russians are credited with boosting Dubai’s luxury real estate sector, with oligarchs and wealthy businessmen snapping up multimillion-dollar beachfront villas, some to live in and some to store their money.

Currently, round-trip economy flights from Moscow to Dubai cost up to $5,000, many of which were sold out after Putin announced a partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine.

The five-hour flight cost about $350 one week before the announcement, which was delivered on September 21.

Current prices on Emirates and flydubai for September 28 and October 26 range from $2,577 to $4,773 for a round-trip economy ticket, according to those airlines’ websites.

The cheapest of these is more than twice the average Russian monthly salary of $965, according to Statista.com.

The cost of direct flights to Dubai from Saint Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia, was about $2,600.

According to Google Travel, lights with links are available at lower prices but are still well above average.

An economy class ticket to Dubai on Azerbaijan Airlines with a layover in Baku was between $988 and $1,040 per week between September 28 and October 6, three times its price before the mobilization was announced.

“The Russians are avoiding a lot,” Ian Bremmer, CEO of risk advisory firm Eurasia Group, wrote on Twitter, along with a video from flight-tracking website Flightradar24.com showing throngs of planes leaving Russia over a few days.

Prices for flights from Russia generally soared, and many were sold out in the days following the news. Satellite images and footage posted in media and social media show long lines of cars backed up for miles on Russia’s borders with Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and several other countries.

The UAE and Dubai, in particular, are favourites for Russian travellers and expats. Since Western countries imposed a wave of sanctions on Russia, many Russians have moved to the desert emirate to escape the sanctions.

Before Russia launched its war with Ukraine, the number of Russians living in the UAE was about 40,000. The number has multiplied now.

And flights from Russia to Dubai are fully booked for the next three or four days, and the prices are crazy because of the high demand.