Home World News Dubai, refuge of wealthy Russians in times of crisis

Dubai, refuge of wealthy Russians in times of crisis

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Since the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the United Arab Emirates have opted for neutrality. This federation made up of seven emirates notably abstained during the vote at the United Nations General Assembly last week at the end of which Russia was suspended from the Human Rights Council. Nor has it, for the moment, rallied to the package of sanctions adopted by the West against Moscow. Its commercial hub, Dubai, has therefore become something of a safe haven for wealthy Russians and their financial assets.

Less than six hours flight from Moscow

George Hojeige is one of the direct witnesses of this influx. The boss of VirtuZone, a business creation assistance company specializing in SMEs, has received between five and ten times more new installation requests from Russia since the start of the war. “Previously, we only received between five and ten a week”, he believes from his offices located close to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. At the same time, in the reception hall, two new clients – Russian passports in hand – are discussing the terms of relocating their company with their adviser.

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“We tend to think that all Russians are oligarchs. It is not the case at all “, exclaims George Hojeige, pulling on his electronic cigarette. The emirate of Dubai is accused by certain NGOs of hosting a handful of Russian businessmen close to Vladimir Putin who wish to escape sanctions from the United States and Europe. “Our clients are normal people, I assure you, who sometimes have some savings and seek to protect their families because they are worried about the future of their region”he continues while recalling the ” many “ control procedures carried out by local authorities to set up a business.

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Russian businessmen are not the only ones migrating to Dubai. Bankers, journalists and artists based in Russia have also settled in the glitzy city-state located just under a six-hour flight from Moscow. Air links have not been suspended between the two countries.

444,000 Russian tourists last year

“Russians have lived here for a long time, they know the Emirates. They already used to come here as tourists or as investors”, explains Thiago Caldas, the boss of the Modern Living Real Estate agency. Around 40,000 Russian nationals lived in this Arabian Peninsula state before the war in Ukraine began. 444,000 Russian tourists also traveled to the emirate last year.

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“When Russians now buy property here, however, I notice that they are only doing it for the simple return on investment. They are mostly looking for a stable place to live.”, analyzes the real estate agent. The purchase of a property in Dubai worth 750,000 dirhams, or just under €200,000, makes it possible to obtain a residence visa valid for three years and renewable. Longer visas are also granted if the investment amount is higher. The emirate has also been offering a telework visa for two years under certain strict conditions.

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Cryptocurrencies to bypass Swift

To attract this clientele, Thiago Caldas even launched, at the start of the war in Ukraine, a communication campaign, particularly in Russia – but also in the region. A campaign “successful”, he says, since his company has recruited three new Russian-speaking real estate agents to meet the growing demand which he too considers to be about ten times greater than before.

Payment for this real estate has been complicated by the disconnection of several Russian banks from the Swift interbank messaging system and the suspension of Visa and Mastercard operations in Russia. Cryptocurrencies have therefore become one of the main channels for financing these goods, he says. However, these new flows come at a sensitive time for the United Arab Emirates. The FATF, the international anti-money laundering body, last month placed the Gulf monarchy on a “grey list” of states placed under enhanced surveillance.

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