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Unwelcome Guests

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Angus Taverner

Director- Global Affairs

Tag: Dubai Dubai Police Foreign Policy Government Policy Public Policy UAE
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Dubai and the UAE have long held a reputation as a tolerant and welcoming society.  This is borne out by the fact that more than 85% of the population are expatsresidents from somewhere else:  foreign workers from Asia and Africa, middle class business persons and entrepreneurs from across the world, and a range of prominent personalities whose antics keep the gossip columns filled.
However, some individuals carry either the baggage of their pasts or seem to regard Dubais tolerance in particular as a license for mischief.  Both groups attract unwanted and perhaps unwarranted attention and they contribute to Dubais sometime reputation as the Middle Easts Big Easy where anything goes.
Recent events have cast a fresh spotlight on some of Dubais less gracious guests.  The emergence of the cricket match-fixing scandal involving members of the Pakistan cricket team on tour in England reminded commentators that much of this illegal activity is reputed to be coordinated from Dubai.  In particular, the Indian underworld figure, Dawood Ibrahim, who spent much time in Dubai in the 1990s and is now believed to be in Lahore, has been widely cited as a leading figure in match-fixing allegations.
On a slightly different note, a run on the Kabul Bank, Afghanistans premier banking institution, has been linked to Dubai on the basis that the institutions Chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, not only invested some of the banks limited resources improperly in 16 villas on the Palm Jumeirah.  He is also alleged to have authorised loans to himself over recent years to enable him to buy Dubai property for himself.
The cross-flow of international criminals, which famously included the nuclear proliferating activities of Pakistans Dr A Q Khan, in and around Dubai is regularly reported by the international media.  Serious criminal activities on which Dubai has cracked down include human trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, prostitution, fraud, and even terrorism.  All of this stands in contrast to Dubais image and reputation as a crime-free, business and family friendly oasis of calm and tolerance amidst the regular upheavals that rock the regions politics. 
Similarly, the leaders of the emirate must sometimes question the wisdom of allowing international figures to have what amounts to political asylum in Dubai.  Most recently, the high profile politicking and agitation that former Thai President Thaksin Shinawatra orchestrated from Dubai, and that led directly to this years violence on the streets of Bangkok, brought pressure on the UAE government to restrict his freedom of action.   Recent Pakistani political affairs also played out in part in Dubai first through the late Benazir Bhutto and her rival Nawaz Sharif, and more recently her husband (now President Asif Ali Zardari), a man who few can forget stands accused of corruption in office.
In this vein, even the seeming reluctance on the part of the UAE authorities to extradite James Ibori, the former governor of Nigerias Delta Province, to face charges in the UK of corruption and the theft of public funds to the tune of $290 million, furthered a perception that Dubai may be happier tolerating the presence of disgraced politicians, fugitives from justice and international criminals, than it in seeing justice done.
But critics should remember that other cities host such personages and activities but without attracting the sorts of criticism sometimes heaped on Dubai.  London has been widely condemned for its apparent tolerance of extremists even earning the media nickname of Londonistan for a time.  Similarly, Spain has developed a reputation for tolerating international criminals who reside on the Costa del Crime, apparently beyond the reach of justice.  France too has a reputation for accepting political radicals, exiled from their native lands; perhaps most famously, many will recall that Irans Ayatollah Khomeini lived in a suburb of Paris, carefully orchestrating the revolution that eventually toppled the Shahs regime in 1979, before returning in triumph to establish the theocratic regime that exists today. 
Hence, while the UAE in general and Dubai in particular may admit questionable notables now and then, this is part of being a modern metropole and evidence of the countrys basic tolerance of diversity and reluctance to interfere in the affairs of others.  That Dubais police force ranks fourth in the world in effectiveness should count heavily against the anything goes rumor. 

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