Abu Dhabi: A total of 200 law firms in the UAE that had failed to comply with anti-money laundering procedures have been suspended from practicing for one month.
The Ministry of Justice has also called upon law firms to take necessary measures against money laundering and terrorist financing, Wam reported. The necessary legal measures are outlined in Federal Decree 20 of 2018 with regard to money laundering, executive regulations, and relevant ministerial decisions. The decree is part of the UAE’s efforts to address the risks associated with financial crimes.
Combating money laundering
The Ministry emphasised the importance of law firms’ role in combating money laundering, as well as the need for lawyers to assume their role in fighting such crimes. Lawyers must also handle clients carefully, report suspicious transactions, and maintaining proper records, the Ministry urged. It added that it had taken recent action against non-compliant lawyers, in addition to the law firm suspensions.
Penalties for money laundering crimes include fines ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh5 million, and can also include the suspension and cancellation of licenses. In recent months, the Ministry of Justice has called upon registered lawyers to access the “Smart Lawyer” system on the Ministry website — elawyer.moj.gov.ae — or to contact the Ministry to update their information in Arabic and English, appoint a compliance officer for each office, and fill out questionnaires relating to procedural compliance. They were also directed through various official media and social media outlets to take all necessary measures to avoid administrative penalties.
The Ministry has explained that law firms suspension will be lifted once lawyers in charge of the department’s legal management office prove that they have carried out procedures to fulfil their obligations under Ministerial Resolution 533 of 2019 on combating money laundering.