Practicing licences of 200 law firms in the UAE have been suspended for a month for not following the prescribed procedures to combat money laundering, authorities have announced.
The Ministry of Justice said it has also taken legal action against the non-compliant lawyers.
Authorities from the ministry noted that the penalties against the law firms included suspension and cancellation of professional licences, as well as imposing of administrative fines ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh5 million.
Law firms have also been urged to take all necessary measures to ensure anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing obligations are respected.
The ministry asked the law firms to take legal action against offenders under Federal Decree 20 of 2018 regarding money laundering, its executive regulations, and relevant ministerial decisions as part of the UAE’s efforts to address the risks associated with financial crimes.
“The suspension of operations of law firms would be lifted if the lawyers in charge of the department’s legal management office prove that they have carried out procedures to fulfill their obligations under Ministerial Resolution 533 of 2019 on combating money laundering,” said the ministry.
The authorities have highlighted the important role played by the law firms in combating money laundering in the country, and the need for lawyers to shoulder the responsibility of fighting this crime and identify the risks while handling clients, report suspicious transactions, and to maintain proper records.
Since August, the ministry has been posting a series of awareness messages through social media and other media channels calling on lawyers to take necessary measures to combat anti-money laundering.
All registered practicing lawyers were also asked to access the ‘Smart Lawyer’ system on the ministry’s website (elawyer.moj.gov.ae), or to contact the ministry’s money laundering department to update their information in Arabic and English, appoint a compliance officer for each office, and fill out questionnaires relating to the compliance procedure.