Joint UAE-US investigation finds American lawyer Asim Ghafoor guilty of money laundering, tax evasion 

DUBAI: A joint investigation between the UAE and the US found that convicted American lawyer Asim Ghafoor had transferred $4.9 million through UAE banks with the intent to conceal or disguise the nature and origin of the funds, according to a statement from the UAE Embassy in Washington DC. 

The UAE had launched an investigation into Ghafoor’s activities in 2020 after receiving an official request for assistance from the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi on behalf of the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division, UAE national Gulf News reported. 

The two countries have been sharing information on Ghafoor’s case for more than two years, the report added. 

 

Despite not being a UAE resident, Ghafoor had made dozens of cash deposit and debit transactions on his accounts, through ATMs based in the country by an unidentified third party using his bank cards, the statement said. 

The UAE-US investigation collected evidence that showed that the transfers on the accounts were inconsistent with the original purpose for which they were opened; they were being used with the intent to conceal or disguise the nature and origin of the funds obtained from illegal sources, according to the embassy’s statement. 

Multiple bank accounts were opened with the intent to conceal the origin of the funds from tax authorities – including one that was opened as early as 2013 and another that was closed in 2020 after suspicious activity was detected.

The transfers were then directed to recipients in several countries, including the US. 

Based on the investigation, a UAE court convicted Ghafoor on charges of money laundering and tax evasion on May 25.

This evidence was presented to the UAE Court of First Instance which convicted Ghafoor under Articles 1, 2/1, clauses a, b, and c 2/3, 5/3, 22/1. 261-2, 29/1 of UAE Federal Law No. 20 of 2018 as amended by Federal Decree-Law No.26 of 2021 on Anti Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Illegal Organizations, and Article 1 of Federal Law No. 7 of 2017 on Tax Procedures, the embassy said. 

Since his arrest, Ghafoor is being afforded due process of the law and has been advised by legal counsel in the UAE. Ghafoor has said indicated that he intends to appeal his conviction with his next court appearance set for 9 August, the statement added. 

He and his counsel have had multiple opportunities to confer in person or by video at their choosing and he has appeared in court on two occasions.

According to the embassy, the court denied his request for bail pending appeal at a previous hearing, adding that he continues to have regular contact with his family and with US consular officials.

The case reflects the extensive legal cooperation between the UAE and US to combat transnational financial crimes, the report added. 

A joint statement following the UAE-US bilateral meeting on 16 July said that: “President Biden recognized the UAE’s efforts to strengthen its policies and enforcement mechanisms in the fight against financial crimes and illicit money flows.”

The UAE’s efforts have included new regulations and policies, enhanced monitoring, and additional prosecutions, sanctions and fines against individuals, banks and other entities, according to the embassy. 

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