Outdoors the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is greatest often known as proprietor of English soccer champion Manchester Metropolis. At house, he’s deputy prime minister and a strong member of the royal household.
However Sheikh Mansour additionally has a behind-the-scenes position that’s turn out to be more and more vital in current months: Serving to handle relationships with rich Russians seeking to transfer cash into the UAE, in keeping with a number of folks acquainted with Abu Dhabi’s engagement with Russians, who requested anonymity as the knowledge isn’t public.
Whereas Sheikh Mansour has lengthy been concerned in cultivating UAE-Russia relations, the significance and complexities of that place have grown since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the folks stated.
Even because the U.S., EU and different international locations have blitzed Russia with hundreds of latest monetary restrictions, making it the world’s most-sanctioned nation, the UAE hasn’t imposed any. Officers within the Center Japanese nation have taken the stance that Abu Dhabi respects worldwide legislation however isn’t required to observe measures carried out by particular international locations and that the UAE has the precise to undertake its personal insurance policies, a number of folks acquainted with their considering stated.
Different U.S. allies, together with Israel and India, have taken the same place.
That strategy, although, has fueled concern amongst some Western officers who’re fearful about holes in their very own sanctions applications. Earlier this month, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo voiced Washington’s worries about Russian tycoons transferring property to the UAE in a name with UAE officers, two folks with data of the discussions stated.
Senior authorities officers, wealthy businessmen and finance executives from Russia are more and more approaching Sheikh Mansour and his workplace for assist managing UAE authorities processes, a number of of the folks stated, including that Russians have grown extra all in favour of investing within the Center Japanese nation because the invasion of Ukraine.
Some are searching for penthouses in Dubai, whereas others need to purchase luxurious automobiles or need assistance establishing financial institution accounts and monetary corporations, they stated.
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, led by Sheikh Mansour, has offered better help because the invasion, the folks stated.
UAE officers take into account Sheikh Mansour’s efforts to be a part of the federal government’s broader technique to draw international enterprise and keep strategic ties with the East and the West, in keeping with a number of of the folks.
The Russia-UAE relationship is especially related given their cooperation throughout the OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting nations, they stated.
Nonetheless, Sheikh Mansour’s continued work demonstrates the fragile balancing act that UAE officers try to tug off. On the one hand, they need to preserve welcoming the circulate of Russian cash, some from tycoons however a big chunk from extraordinary residents with no ties to the Kremlin. Then again, they’re delicate to how that’s considered by Western allies who’ve ramped up sanctions on Vladimir Putin in addition to a swathe of Russian people and corporations.
“We now have this conflict of our pals and allies,” stated Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati educational based mostly within the UAE. “We don’t need to exit of our technique to displease Washington however we additionally gained’t bow right down to them. There are many oligarchs with investments within the West, too.”
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs didn’t return calls searching for remark and the UAE Ministry of International Affairs declined to remark. Efforts to succeed in Sheikh Mansour by means of Manchester Metropolis and his places of work weren’t profitable. A spokesperson on the U.S. Treasury Division declined to remark.
Earlier this 12 months, a spokesperson on the UAE’s Government Workplace of Anti-Cash Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism informed Bloomberg that the nation will proceed to pursue deeper collaboration with overseas companions on monitoring worldwide flows of cash.
A brother of the UAE’s de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Nationwide Safety Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, Sheikh Mansour, 51, is without doubt one of the nation’s strongest royals. Earlier than the invasion of Ukraine, he accompanied MBZ to varied conferences with Russian corporations. In 2019, he was current when MBZ met Putin in Abu Dhabi.
MBZ stays the ultimate authority on high-level diplomatic relations with Putin and Russia, the folks stated.
A billionaire in his personal proper, Sheikh Mansour is chairman of the UAE central financial institution. He additionally sits on the board of different corporations together with state oil large Adnoc and sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Funding Authority, which oversees greater than $800 billion, in keeping with knowledge compiled by International SWF.
At house, he’s a patron of athletics, backing fashionable occasions from soccer to horse racing and long-distance working. Since he took management of Manchester Metropolis in 2008, the membership has returned to prominence, profitable a slew of trophies and changing into one of many world’s most respected soccer franchises.
Russians ranked fourth amongst Dubai’s vacationers within the first two months of 2022 with about 137,000, greater than double the 12 months prior although decrease than pre-pandemic ranges, in keeping with the Dubai authorities.
Even because the UAE has held off on putting sanctions on Russia, some Emiratis together with Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief government officer of sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Funding Co., and Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to Washington, have sought to reassure U.S., U.Okay. and European officers.
At a finance convention in Dubai final month, Al Mubarak stated Mubadala, which has vital U.S. publicity, will keep away from investing in Russia for now, changing into the primary Center East wealth fund boss to supply public feedback on the battle. The transfer was purely industrial and shouldn’t be thought of a political choice, in keeping with an individual acquainted with the matter.
Mubadala, the place Sheikh Mansour is vice chairman, stated in an emailed assertion that it had paused any additional funding in Russia “given the scenario,” however didn’t present additional particulars.
Nonetheless, Western officers have welcomed the feedback from Mubadala, contemplating it proof of the UAE’s concern about secondary sanctions on anybody conducting enterprise with sanctioned Russian entities, in keeping with among the folks.
“The U.S. authorities has illicit finance watchers on excessive alert and have informed the UAE they’re watching carefully, not eager to lure anybody, extra to forestall it,” stated Kirsten Fontenrose, who was senior director for Gulf affairs on the White Home’s Nationwide Safety Council through the Trump administration.
The UAE stands to learn from its extra welcoming posture towards Russian cash, however it’s drawn scrutiny previously for inflows tied to people sanctioned by different nations. The federal government is beneath elevated stress because the Paris-based Monetary Motion Job Drive, a worldwide anti-money laundering physique, positioned the nation in March on its “grey listing” for not monitoring cash coming into the nation strictly sufficient.
Relations between the UAE and the U.S. have lately soured. The UAE and Saudi Arabia need the U.S. to do extra to counter missile assaults from Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen. The 2 Gulf international locations, in the meantime, have up to now rebuffed Washington’s requests to hike oil manufacturing and scale back costs.
Jodi Vittori, a professor at Georgetown College who research the nexus of monetary flows and U.S. nationwide safety, stated disagreements over sanctions coverage will stay a thorny subject.
“If the world cracks down additional on illicit Russian flows and that’s a basis of those economies, the U.S. might have to simply accept that they’ll have much less leverage in these diplomatic relationships transferring ahead,” she stated.
–With help from Abeer Abu Omar, Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams and Daniel Flatley.