How Dubai’s authorities blessed OneCoin’s money laundering

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Around the same time US authorities began looking into OneCoin, Dubai’s General Department of Criminal Investigations raised money laundering concerns.

How the parallel investigations concluded however, couldn’t be any more different.

In November 2015 Public Prosecutors in Dubai received a report from the Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigations.

The report detailed

the involvement of Ruja Ignatova in money laundering operations in favor of suspicious international bodies.

These allegations were based on “reports of suspicious transactions” from several UAE banks.

Funds in question were frozen, pending the outcome of a regulatory investigation.

As observed by Mashreq Bank, Ignatova was laundering OneCoin funds from HSBC accounts in Hong Kong.

The GDCI’s investigation extended beyond Mashreq Bank. As part of the investigation they sought clarification from HSBC as to the nature of Ignatova’s transactions.

In a spectacular display of regulatory non-compliance, HSBC ignored them.

Commercial Bank of Dubai has contracted the transferring bank in Hong Kong, inquiring about the details of the financial and commercial relationship between the transferor and the beneficiary in the UAE, and whether the bank in Hong Kong is reassured of the nature and sources of the sums transferred, as well as scanning copies of the portfolio of commercial documents and commercial contracts.

The bank in Hong Kong did not respond to the inquiries sent by Commercial Bank of Dubai and only stated the reason for the two financial transfers, i.e. the payment of loans.

The transferring bank refused to give more detailed information on the inquiries and requests made by the Commercial Bank of Dubai despite repeated requests.

The reason HSBC pushed back on the requests is obvious; they didn’t do any due-diligence on Ignatova or the source of funds she was laundering into the UAE.

Additional reports were received from United Arab Bank and Noor Bank, citing concerns with accounts and transactions facilitated by Sebastian Greenwood.

The Central Bank’s Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Intelligence Unit received a suspicious banking transaction report from United Arab Bank regarding Karl Sebastian Greenwood and a lady called Tasmiya Kauser (she was working in Mashreq Bank as an administrative officer) and she was supervisor of bank accounts for which suspicious banking transaction reports referred to in the report were filed by Mashreq Bank.

Mashreq Bank’s filed SAR mentioned “special emphasis on staff collusion”.

This appears to be confirmed via a separate SAR filed by HSBC’s Dubai branch.

HSBC Bank (Dubai branch) submitted a suspicious banking transaction report on the personal account of the lady Tasmiya Kauser.

The bank stated in the report that during her work with Mashreq Bank, which ran for a period not exceeding (5) months, she deposited sums of money amounting to AED 4.2 million paid from SS FZC and from Karl Sebastian Greenwood.

Upon the bank’s inquiries about the nature of the sums, she reported that Sheikh Saud Faisal bin Sultan Qasimi gave her a loan of AED 3.7 million to buy a property and an amount of AED 500,000 is a marriage gift presented by her friend Karl Sebastian Greenwood.

Sheikh Saud Faisal bin Sultan Qasimi is related to Sheikh Saoud, who is directly implicated in OneCoin’s money laundering activity.

Both Sheikh Saud and Sheikh Saoud belong to the Al Qasimi royal family, headed up by Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan bin Salem Al Qasimi.

Sheikh Faisal is founder and Chairman of United Arab Bank.

Outside of the UAE the GDCI received a letter from Germany’s General Directorate of the Federal Criminal Police, citing documentation from Interpol’s Manchester office.

The letter cited a “serious crimes investigation into fraud and money laundering”, by the Department of Dangerous Crimes in Metropolitan Police in London.

Subjects of the investigation were Ruja Ignatova, Haja Barheila and Sebastian Greenwood.

Haja Barheila is a name I haven’t seen before. They don’t appear to exist anywhere on the internet and I have no idea who this individual is.

The Department of Dangerous Crimes  expressed concern over the “seizure of investor’s money” by the suspects, in relation to operation of OneCoin.

The report went on to cite Frank Ricketts and Manon Hubenthal as co-conspirators.

Dubai’s Public Prosecutors sat on the report until February 2016, wherein “a joint committee was appointed”.

The committee consisted of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirate’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Dubai Police General HQs, represented by the Department of Combating Organized Crime – Department of Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

The purpose of the committee was

to prepare a joint detailed technical report on all transactions and transfers made in the accounts belonging to persons and companies mentioned in (the GDCI’s) report.

The committee filed an initial report on December 15th, 2016.

The report stated the committee had been unable to get in contact with any of the individuals associated with the suspicious activity.

The request was passed through each of Tasmiya Kauser (because) of her close relationship with them and the concerned banks.

However, Karl Sebastian Greenwood and Ruja Ignatova did not pay any attention and abstained from attending, and they sent mediators (law firms) to the meeting.

The committee noted both Greenwood and Ignatova had moved freely in and out of Dubai since being first approached by the committee, but “did not initiate contact or attend”.

As a result, the committee noted that unless it could sit down with Martin Breidenbach (owner of Prosperia FZE, one of the shell companies used to launder funds between Hong Kong and the UAE), Ignatova, Greenwood and Nicholas David Cully (set up Prosperia FZE through his company The Sovereign Group), the committee cannot file a final technical report with the result of the sources and nature of funds.

Dubai authorities took action on the report, issuing arrest warrants for Ignatova, Greenwood, Breidenbach and Cully.

The warrants were never executed.

In June 2020 the committee filed its final report.

As there were no complaints or legal claims against the mentioned companies and Ruja Ignatova in the country, as well as the absence of any legal requests from outside the country to freeze the bank accounts of companies and Ruja Ignatova, except for what was circulating on the internet, therefore the committee proposes to unfreeze the funds.

Upon reviewing the report, the Central Bank of the UAE’s Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Intelligence Unit, and Dubai Police’s Department for Combating Organized Crime, adopted the reports recommendations.

Consequently, the bank accounts previously frozen in 2015 were unfrozen.

In issuing their report, the committee had been stringent in barring Sheikh Saud from claiming the funds.

This was on the basis “the freeze occurred before he acquired (OneCoin) according to the Power of Attorney granted to him”.

The Central Bank of the UAE and Dubai Police Department disagreed, granting Sheikh Saud permission to claim the frozen funds.

As it is a matter related to a dispute outside the criminal offense, the matter is left to the injured party, i.e. Ruja Ignatova, to initiate civil proceedings in this regard.

That’s where the Public Prosecutors report ends.

Presumably the millions that were frozen were handed over to Sheikh Saud or whoever rocked up to collect.

Nobody in the UAE has been held accountable for OneCoin’s money laundering activities.

Conversely,  the US’ parallel investigation into OneCoin’s money laundering activities has seen no less than six individuals indicted. That includes Ruja Ignatova and Sebastian Greenwood.

Ignatova remains a fugitive wanted by US authorities. Based on her connections to the Al Qasimi family, the leading theory is the royal family is sheltering Ignatova somewhere in the UAE.

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