On the tarmac of Dubai airport, half way along its main runway, a small terminal has been doing brisk business this month. Daily flights have disgorged dozens of Russians – many among the wealthiest figures in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
A short VIP welcome and limousine ride later, and the oligarchs are into a world that cares little about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine or the attempts to punish Putin, and has instead willingly embraced his enablers.
Perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, the oligarchs, and other cashed-up Russians are welcome in Dubai, along with their riches, which are flooding to the United Arab Emirates in unprecedented amounts – often via discreet means.
The UAE has not followed western governments in using sanctions as retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. Bankers, real estate agents, car dealerships and marinas are reporting extraordinary demand for homes, sports cars and mooring space as the influx settles in to an oil-rich monarchy that has charted its own course on Putin’s Russia and is not afraid to expose glaring tensions with the US in doing so.
Transactions, from elite property sales to leases, are largely being conducted using cryptocurrencies, but some have been straight transfers from Russian financial entities linked to sanctioned tycoons, a regional intelligence source told the Observer. Such moves undermine sanctions imposed by the US and EU on the Russian leaders’ allies and are a potent lure for the next rung of Russian businessmen who fear the same fate.
Real estate agents in Dubai are reporting one of the biggest bull markets ever as Russian investors snap up apartments sight unseen, either buying them outright, or paying a year’s rent in advance. “It’s been unbelievable,” said Alan Pinto, a leasing consultant at Espace Real Estate in Dubai Marina. [Continue reading…]