18 April 2006

Dubai and its wild, gold trading history

An underworld paved with gold
By Bertil Lintner

It seemed like a routine announcement. Last August 30, the London Bullion Market Association issued a statement revoking the status of an associate member, ARY of Dubai, one of the wealthiest of the United Arab Emirates.

But in fact, it was the first overt outcome of a long investigation into money-laundering, drug-trafficking and possible terrorism-financing. Since the August announcement, ARY has had several of its British bank accounts closed and the revenue authorities are investigating its finances. This could be the end of the road for one of the hitherto best-respected - and most well-connected - jewelers and gold dealers in the Persian Gulf region, Abdul Razzak Yacoub Ghandi, whose initials form the name of the group of companies he owns.

Apart from controlling a large share of Dubai's lucrative gold wholesale business, he runs a satellite TV company, ARY Digital, which he claims transmits into 107 countries, manages a gold refinery called ARY Aurum Plus, and has interests in local real-estate development. He also used to manage the ill-gotten gains of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the 'father' of Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program.

When Khan fell from grace in February 2004, he and his relatives tried to recover the funds they had deposited with ARY. But it was all in vain. The millions of dollars that Khan had made from selling nuclear-bomb designs to countries such as North Korea and Libya had already been transferred to secret bank accounts, to which only ARY has access, investigators assert.

So far, however, the only conviction in the region against him or any of his associates occurred whe"

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