(Adds names of exchange houses, details)
ABU DHABI, June 11 (Reuters) - The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates said on Monday it has restricted the operations of seven currency exchange houses for violating anti-money laundering and other regulations.
The UAE’s huge expatriate workforce and growing business and tourism sectors have made it a global centre for exchanging foreign currencies and transferring money to and from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.
The seven are banned from doing business relating to remittances and payment of wages, the central Bank said in a statement. They can now deal only in the sale and purchase of foreign currencies and travellers cheques.
“This decision comes after the failure of these exchange houses to regularize their status during the grace period granted by the Central Bank,” the statement said.
It named the seven as Taher Exchange Est, Al Hadha Exchange LLC, Al Hamriya Exchange Company, Dubai Express Exchange, Sanaa Exchange, Cosmos Exchange and Bin Bakheet Exchange Est.
The central bank has ordered money exchange houses in the UAE to raise their standards after several banks cut ties with them due to concerns about the risk of illicit financial flows.
Exchange houses in the UAE have faced an increasingly stringent regulatory environment in recent years. There are about 125 exchange houses operating in the UAE.
To improve the industry’s reputation, the Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group (FERG), an industry body published an anti-money laundering manual in January to give exchange firms guidance on best practices.
$1 = 3.6726 UAE dirham Reporting By Stanley Carvalho; editing by David Stamp