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UK media’s unethical promotion of Dubai property market

Confusing UAE terrain. Is it safe or not?

“At this point, UK citizens who lose their money in the Dubai property market could not be blamed for holding British media outlets accountable, ethically if not legally,” says an exasperated Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai. She is reacting to the latest article in the UK press touting the UAE as a smart place to invest. “It is truly appalling that these promotional stories never include information about the huge risks involved in Dubai real estate, not to mention the overall dangers foreign nationals face in the UAE.

Dubai's property market has been described as a haven for money laundering, with criminals and terrorists using the market to hide their assets, according to a report by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies,” Stirling explains, “The report identifies some $100 million in suspicious purchases of apartments and villas across Dubai, yet these newspapers shamelessly champion the UAE as a destination for investment. No mention is made of the lax regulatory environment in Dubai, the rampant criminality and fraud, nor are there even stories of British citizens who have lost their life savings because they believed their own media about how smart it is to buy property in the UAE.”

Stirling says the negligence of some UK media in promoting investment in Dubai without properly educating investors is a cause for concern. “The UK media has a responsibility to properly inform investors about the risks involved in investing in Dubai, rather than promoting it as a safe and profitable investment destination” she explains, “One of the efforts we have put a great deal of emphasis on is for the government to increase its travel warnings about the UAE, so British citizens will be aware of the risks they face in a country that has the highest percentage of foreigners entangled in the legal system. When the UK press constantly pushes the narratives crafted by the Dubai Media Office and PR firms hired by the UAE to market the country, it just compounds the problem of misinformation and leads to more and more British citizens making uninformed decisions that could put not only their money, but even their freedom in jeopardy.”

Stirling warns that the Dubai property market has long been exposed as a hub for organised crime, with a data leak exposing how criminals and terrorists have been using the market to hide their assets. Reporters identified numerous owners of Dubai real estate who have been accused or convicted of crimes or are under international sanctions. This has led to a situation where investors are putting their money at risk without fully understanding the risks involved.

Detained in Dubai has also found that rich Russians fleeing sanctions are pumping up Dubai's property market. Dubai brokerage Betterhomes found that Russians moved up two places to become the fifth-top buyers of Dubai. Many Russian buyers also make their purchases in cryptocurrency, as several of Dubai's major property firms have started accepting digital currency payments. Anti-corruption activists and lawmakers accuse Dubai of being a hub for dirty money. Kremlin critic Bill Browder has called for the emirate to be put on a financial blacklist, and a group of members of the European Parliament accused the UAE of facilitating money laundering at a grand scale, including in the real estate sector.

Stirling wants the UK media to properly warn British citizens that the Dubai property market is a high-risk investment destination, rife with money laundering, sanctions evasion, scams, corruption, unrealistic property valuations, regulatory problems, obstacles to refunds, and the difficulty recouping investments through property rentals due to over-saturation in the market and rent prices. “The Dubai property market needs stronger regulation and enforcement to prevent the city from being used as a hub for dirty money,” Stirling says, “These changes cannot happen as long as the UAE is able to keep the illusion alive that everything is wonderful in Dubai real estate, which they are able to do with the active promotional support of the British media. This is highly irresponsible and any outlets who continue to present a false image of the UAE are ethically culpable for deliberately concealing information about the serious risks investors face in the Emirates.”


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