Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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A Hardy Band in Congress Press for UAE Accountability
A small but determined bipartisian group in Congress continues to press the United Arab Emirates for accountability on several important fronts.

In a recent letter to UAE ambassador Al Asri Al Dhahri, the group asked for further information on UAE's efforts crack down on the use of diamonds and gold by terrorist and criminal groups, the operations of Viktor Bout, monitoring hawalas and other informal value transfer systems and money laundering.

The letter is signed by Reps. Sue Kelly of New York, the Republican vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley and California Democratic Rep. Diane Watson.

The letter rightfully acknowledged the UAE's initial steps on some fronts, but pointed out the remaining dangers and that much remains to be done. It follows up on issues the administration has long lost interest in.

"We believe that weaknesses in the UAE's financial defenses tie directly to the ability of nuclear proliferators and terrorist operatives to successfully operate in the UAE," the letter said.

The letter added that "We are concerned that the UAE continues to facilitate the easy transfer of bulk cash and high-value commodity items such as gold, jewelry and gemstones. We are aware of the cultural differences which lead some in your region to not view the transport of significant amounts of these items with suspicion. However, this method of value transfer is prevalent among terrorist operatives and transnational criminals and we firmly believe more must be done to address it.

"Dubai's status as a leading international center for trade in gold and precious stones requires that the UAE government assume a leadership role in creating and enforcing a strong regulatory regime to monitor trade activity and the transport of these commodities. We feel that there is clearly room for more progress in this regard - a man leaving Dubai was recently captured in a Moscow airport with over five pounds of diamonds on his person."

On Viktor Bout, the letter noted that the UAE has reportedly taken some action to keep Bout's aircraft from operating there, but asked for further assurances that he would not be allowed to reappear using different companies. "The US exports its most advanced weaponry to the UAE on the assumption it will not go to its enemies. This assumption is undermined by the tolerance of arms traffickers such as Bout," the letter said.
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