UAE freezes 1.3 mln dollars of suspected terrorist funds

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ABU DHABI, Oct 8 (Reuters) The United Arab Emirates today said it had frozen 17 bank accounts totalling 1.3 million dollars because of suspected links to terrorism financing.

''Some accounts have been frozen in line with UN resolutions,'' said Abdulrahim al-Awadi, head of the anti-money laundering unit at the UAE central bank.

''They have been referred to a special committee at the United Nations,'' he told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

A committee of the U.N. Security Council is responsible for deciding whether suspect individuals and entities should be added to a global al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions list, obliging all nations to freeze their assets.

The list currently comprises 142 Taliban associates, 223 individuals and 124 entities linked to al Qaeda, the latter including several Dubai-based firms.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has leaned hard on Gulf countries, among others, to tighten controls in their financial systems to choke off terrorist finance.

Awadi said the UAE central bank had also frozen 259 accounts for suspected money laundering and other fraudulent activities, and referred them to the local courts.

Since 2003, the UAE has also required informal money transfer outlets, known as hawala brokers, to register with the central bank.

It has approved 246 hawala brokers and is processing the applications of 70 more, Awadi said.

Hawala brokers are often used to remit money to remote areas such as rural Pakistan or Afghanistan, where the banking system is least developed. Brokers accept funds in one country and promise to pay a beneficiary in another for a fee that is smaller than at a bank.

''Now we know who they are, who their clients are, how much they are remitting, what is the destination,'' Awadi said.

REUTERS SI RK2205

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