A common refrain in Monaco when business owners are asked what happened to Russian clients after sanctions is: “They’ve gone to Dubai.”
Now that the Russian state’s attack on Ukraine is into its fourth month, facts and figures are clearly supporting the anecdotal evidence.
Real estate prices have surged so far this year, and purchases by Russians have sky-rocketed, Dubai estate agents say.
As early as March 17, Emirati property magnate Hussain Sajwani told CNBC: “I’m sure a lot of Russians are trying to fix their problems and their issues, but Dubai will benefit ultimately from any crisis.”
According to Reuters, Russians were already among the top purchasers of real estate before the war and sanctions. Buying property in a rapidly rising market with few if any questions asked about the source of funds makes great business sense.
The UAE was placed on the grey list of the international Financial Action Task Force early in March, although the authorities continue to pay lip service to ‘financial integrity.’
The UAE does not support international sanctions against Russia and shortly after the invasion abstained in a key United Nations vote condemning the attack, alongside China and India.
Russia’s back door to Europe
Meanwhile, the state-owned Emirates airline is now operating flights to Moscow up to three times a day plus daily flights to Saint Petersburg. The first class cabin appears to sell out fast.
Dubai has become an important international travel hub for Russians following the ending of direct European flights to and from Moscow thanks to its extensive network in Europe, including Paris and Nice.
Dubai rescued the airline with a $3.1 billion bailout during the coronavirus pandemic, but after a loss of $5.5 billion in 2020-2021, Emirates is now facing “roaring demand,” according to Emirates President Sir Tim Clarke.
Interestingly, he told the BBC that in his view it was important to recognise the Russian population may not be part of the war in Ukraine.
Sir Tim said the airline is seeking to recruit 3,000 to 4,000 cabin crew and additional pilots.
“If we can have all our aircraft flying today, 270 of them, then we would. I can’t because I am just short of crew,” he said.