In Dubai’s swankiest areas, real estate agents say the number of Russians looking for villas and apartments is on the rise and among them are Roman Abramovichthe tycoon who still owns Chelsea
Although the current whereabouts of the Russian billionaire not known to the publicfor the past few weeks he has been looking for a house in Palm Jumeirah Dubai, an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree “dotted” with luxury residences, according to people familiar with the matter.
The tycoon’s interest in the emirate is the latest sign of how more Russians are flocking to the city-state as other jurisdictions increasingly sanction and shun some of their compatriots.
Lawyers for the Russian businessmen say some are trying to move assets to the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part. Aviation sites have identified planes belonging to Russian tycoons, including Abramovich’s, who come to town, although it is not known who was actually on board. The United Kingdom and the European Union imposed sanctions on Abramovich, but not the United Arab Emirates.
The Arab nation has taken a cautious political stance aimed at maintaining ties with Russia, surprising Western officials. The Gulf state abstained from voting on a US-led resolution in late February condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council, saying the outcome of the vote was doomed. ‘advance.
As superyachts, properties and planes suspected of having Kremlin links are seized across Europe, direct flights from Moscow to Dubai, where no sanctions apply, continue to arrive.
When there is a crisis, Dubai does very well
“In Dubai, there is an old saying: ‘when the region is doing well, we do well’, but when there is a crisis, we do very wellnoted Chirag Shah, founder of consultancy firm 1 International FinCentre Associates, speaking in broad terms about the city’s ability to navigate global turmoil, from wars to politics and the coronavirus pandemic.
But the outrage over President Vladimir Putin’s actions is also drawing unwanted attention to the center’s open-door policy.
Even before the Ukraine war, the UAE was in the spotlight for its international money flows. The global financial crime watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, placed the country earlier this month on your gray listmeaning it sits between jurisdictions like Panama and South Sudan which the group says are not doing enough to counter the flow of dirty money.
Now the money flowing out of Moscow has left some US Treasury officials worried that CIPS, the Chinese yuan cross-border payment system seen as a potential rival to the global transactional messaging system SWIFT, could become a key vehicle for the Russians funneling their money. in the United Arab Emirates using the Chinese yuan to circumvent US sanctions, people familiar with the matter said.
Government officials in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates did not respond to requests for comment. The UAE government said it has made significant progress in strengthening the regulation of financial flows.
Repeated efforts to contact Abramovich failed. An associate who has acted as a media liaison in the past declined to answer questions, saying only that she was not a spokesperson and that her press office would be in touch if she had any comment. Calls and a text to the London number she provided for her press office are not working.
A spokesman for Abramovich said in a Feb. 28 statement that the tycoon was trying to help negotiate an end to the war. The Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had advised President Joe Biden to postpone Abramovich’s sanction because could prove to be a useful intermediary in efforts to negotiate peace.
Where are the rich in Russia right now?
One of Abramovich’s private jets was in Dubai in March, according to data from the ADS-B Exchange, an aircraft tracking website.
Dubai is already a favorite destination for many Russians, attracting tens of thousands of Russian tourists every month. Russian ice cream is on sale at the famous seaside development of La Mer. Specialties such as Russian-style sour cream and cottage cheese are available in some grocery stores.
Even Russians with transparent sources of income and unrelated to state authoritiess they fear being grouped with sanctioned businessmen or have their assets taken away, said Daria Nevskaya, a partner at Moscow-based law firm FTL Advisers, which caters to wealthy Russians. Some are trying to restructure the ownership of their assets “so they don’t become the subject of a witch hunt”, he added.
Nevskaya recently arrived in Dubai as the company has seen an increase in demand from Russians to register companies in the UAE to retain their assets, including financials.