Dubai has turned into a “safe haven” for drug smugglers, a media report says, following the busting by Europol of a prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.
The operators of the drug cartel, which was run from Dubai, said they felt they were “untouchable and enjoyed a high standard of living,” the Guardian quoted sources as saying.
The European cocaine super-cartel that controlled one-third of the cocaine trade in Europe has been taken down in six countries, including the UAE.
“These are serious criminal offences pertaining to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam,” the Dutch public prosecution service said.
Smuggling and money laundering is not something new in the oil-rich country. It has also been known as a hub for dirty gold trade, with lax regulatory oversight allowing the smuggling of the precious metal from conflict zones to the Persian Gulf country.
In 2020, the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal reported that the UAE, particularly Dubai, has established itself as one the largest and fastest-growing marketplaces for gold while it has no local gold to tap.
The Sentry — an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers — found in November 2020 that 95 percent of gold officially exported from Central and East Africa, much of it mined in Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, ends up in Dubai.
“Much of the conflict gold is smuggled to neighboring countries and then exported to Dubai,” said Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy at The Sentry.
“It is kind of the new blood diamonds, if you will, due in part to the rise in gold prices. There are gold rushes in many artisanal areas, so more child miners, more criminal groups and more corruption,” Lezhnev added.