We start our tour in British newspapers from the Guardian newspaper and a report by John Enguide-Thomas, entitled: “Activists say Dubai should be blacklisted after failing to fight Russian oligarchy.”
The report notes that activists and politicians have called for the UAE to be blacklisted, due to its failure to combat the flow of “dirty money” and its failure to assist other countries in implementing the sanctions imposed on the Russian oligarchs.
The report adds that the Gulf state has emerged as a major haven for wealthy Russians fleeing the impact of global sanctions, as their private planes and giant yachts head to the Emirates after the invasion of Ukraine.
“Dubai has always been a safe place for dirty money,” Bill Browder, a financial expert and critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, told the Guardian. “It should now be blacklisted and its leaders should not be welcome here.”
He added to the newspaper that secondary sanctions should be imposed on the UAE unless it provides assistance to countries that seek the assets of the Russian oligarch.
And the Guardian reported that it became clear last week that, more than three months ago, one of the most expensive private planes in the world, belonging to former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, landed in Dubai.
It quoted the US Department of Justice as confirming that the last recorded flight of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, worth $350 million, was from Moscow to Dubai on March 4.
The UAE was placed on a “grey list” by the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in March, due to shortcomings in its measures to combat money laundering and other financial crimes, and there are now calls for it to be included in similar international lists, according to the newspaper.
The report indicated that officials in the UAE do not consider that they are required to implement the sanctions imposed by other countries, but they insist that they are working to address the concerns raised by the Financial Action Task Force.
The £240 million yacht linked to billionaire Andrei Melnichenko was spotted on ocean tracking systems at a port in the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, according to the Financial Times.
The yacht “Madame Go” has also been linked to Andrei Skoch, a billionaire and Russian parliament member who is under sanctions by the United States, Britain and the European Union. The luxury yacht is also subject to US sanctions, but its location is unknown. The last reported appearance in Dubai was on March 6, according to the newspaper.
The report indicated that Dubai’s role as a haven for the Russian elite since the Ukrainian invasion once again highlighted its measures to combat money laundering and illegal money. An investigation published last month in a data leak revealed that there are many Russian property owners in Dubai who are accused or convicted of crimes or under international sanctions, including businessmen close to the Kremlin.
The newspaper quoted Kira Marie Peter Hansen, a Danish member of the European Parliament, as saying that the latest investigation revealed how the UAE was a “safe haven for criminal proceeds, corrupt officials and Russian oligarchs”. “We want to put the UAE on a blacklist, especially in light of the large number of Russian oligarchs who use the state to avoid sanctions,” she said.
The Guardian concluded its report by saying that Emirati officials did not respond to her request for comment.
Saudi Arabia enters the world of golf and changes the rules of the game
We move to the Financial Times and a report by its correspondent Samuel Aguiney entitled: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s investment of two billion dollars in the game of golf changes the rules of the global game.”
Earlier this week, one of the most skilled and marketable players in the game, Phil Mickelson, participated in the opening of an exclusive private golf course outside London, but he was not wearing the logos of any of his sponsors.
He pointed out that these days, he has more financial backers than his previous sponsors, after his participation in the new “LIV Golf Investments” tournament, a separate league that threatens to overturn the status quo for the sport of golf.
The report indicates that the new tournament was funded by at least two billion dollars, by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which is worth 620 billion dollars. He adds that the total prize money is 250 million dollars, which is the highest number among the game’s competition rewards.
The writer says it is rumored that a $200 million fee was paid to Mickelson, who brought in a massive fan following as well as added credibility to this week’s event at a private club in Hertfordshire, which was organized by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
The Financial Times indicated that the player refused to comment on the details of his contract and the number was not confirmed.
The newspaper adds that the players were criticized by activists for accepting huge fees, because the new league is backed by a country that faced “Western criticism because of its poor human rights record, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents in 2018, and its military operations in Yemen.”
She confirmed that Michelson himself had previously strongly criticized the Saudis and said that they are “scary eyes” in the event of involvement with them. He added, “We know that they were killed [جمال] Khashoggi and they have an appalling human rights record. People are executed there for being gay. After knowing all this, why do I accept all of this? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA works.”
And the newspaper considered that the current controversy is the latest indication that Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth is shaking global sport, after the Public Investment Fund’s acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club, worth 305 million pounds, in October of last year, and its purchase of a stake. In the group that owns McLaren Racing Wear in addition to the state oil company Aramco’s sponsorship of the Formula 1 race, which is now being held in Jeddah.
She pointed out that the investments of the Public Investment Fund were designed to reduce the Saudi economy’s dependence on oil, and to support the modernization plan of the conservative kingdom.
But some activists have accused Saudi Arabia of “sports washing” to improve the country’s image, according to the Financial Times.
Simon Chadwick, professor of Eurasian sports at the Emilion School of Entrepreneurship in Paris, acknowledged the “reputation and image benefits that may result from association with the best golfers in the world,” but pointed to broader reasons for Saudi investment in the “LI Championship.” in”.
“The state encourages people to play golf, especially women, as the government seeks to bring about positive social change,” he said.
“In addition, there are tourism goals; the government in Riyadh wants to attract tourism dollars for the growing number of golf courses in Saudi Arabia,” he told the newspaper.
At a press conference ahead of the tournament on Thursday, some players gave “strange” answers to justify their participation, according to the Financial Times. “I don’t condone human rights abuses at all,” Michelson said.
Others could not say whether they would play in a tournament organized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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