UAE court lifts prison term for American convicted of money laundering

DUBAIā€”A UAE court lifted a prison sentence but upheld a money laundering conviction against Asim Gafoor, a U.S. citizen and civil rights attorney who was detained while transiting through Dubai last month, the judiciary said. A lawyer for the ministry and Gahoor said. Wednesday.

The court ordered Gahoor to pay a fine of 5 million dirhams ($1.36 million) and confiscate 18 million dirhams in his account. But he removed three years’ imprisonment from a previous sentence he was given in absentia in May, lawyer Habib Al Mulla told Reuters.

Abu Dhabi’s Anti-Money Laundering and Tax Evasion Court also ordered the deportation of Gahoor, the emirate’s justice ministry said in a statement posted on its Twitter account. Confirmed that the prison sentence was revoked and Gafoul faced his fine and confiscation of funds.

Lawyers declined to say if Virginia-based Gahool was released. The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Ghafour, who helped found a human rights group along with the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was found guilty in absentia after an investigation the UAE said began in 2020 based on a request for help from the United States. was detained at Dubai International Airport under authorities.

The UAE embassy in Washington said on Monday that an UAE investigation found that Gahoor committed tax evasion and money laundering by making international transfers of at least $4.9 million through the UAE’s banking system.

The July 14 absentee trial and his detention while U.S. President Joe Biden was visiting the area drew criticism from rights groups and some members of Congress.

The United States has not confirmed that it has requested an investigation by the emirate, and said Gahoor was not detained at Washington’s request.

Ghafour’s supporters have said Ghafour was not aware of the charges, and some US lawmakers have suggested the arrest could be political, prompting the Saudi Arabian government to take action in Turkey in 2018. Khashoggi, who was murdered by agents of

UAE authorities have consistently described the incident strictly as one of financial crime. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters on Tuesday about the allegations that Gahoor’s ties to Khashoggi may have been a factor.

US intelligence agencies say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has authorized the operation that killed Khashoggi. The crown prince denies his involvement. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are close allies.

According to Ghafoor’s website, Ghafoor helped Khashoggi found the US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) in 2018 and is also a member of its board of directors.

DAWN said May’s conviction was obtained without due process and had called for his immediate release, a criticism picked up by members of the US Congress.

The UAE embassy said Gafoor had undergone due process since his arrest and was in regular contact with local lawyers, family members and U.S. consular officials.

($1 = 3.6727 United Arab Emirates Dirham)

Alexander Cornwell