UAE central bank focuses on real estate in anti-money laundering efforts

DUBAI, June 23 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates Central Bank is focusing on the real estate sector as part of its work to combat money laundering in the country, an official said on Sunday.

The UAE has been tightening its financial regulations to fight the perception among some foreign investors that it is a hot spot for illicit funds due to its free trade zones and geographic proximity to Iran.

On Sunday, the Central Bank said it will use a new anti-money laundering reporting platform starting from the end of June to identify illicit transactions more effectively.

“Real estate is one of the areas we’re focusing on,” Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi, Acting Head of the bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, told Reuters.

A global money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is expected to start an evaluation of the UAE’s efforts in fighting illicit money flows in July, said Ba’Alawi.

“The UAE has gone through a lot of changes, a lot of laws have been issued to be in line with international best practices,” he said.

“The outcome of the (FATF) assessment depends on what areas they will look at, but the country has the opportunity to showcase what efforts have been put in place.”

Last week Saudi Arabia said it was granted full membership of the FATF. (Reporting by Davide Barbuscia Editing by Keith Weir )