Dubai Emerges as Global Cybercrime Hotspot in $30 Million Money Laundering Case

OCCRP investigation about money laundering in Dubai
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In an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) a major money laundering operation connected to Dubai was exposed. The case highlights Dubai’s growing reputation as a global hub for cybercrime and illicit financial activities. Three people arrested in a raid on an alleged money laundering ring in Singapore invested over $30 million in Dubai real estate.

Key Findings

  • Suspect Identified: Su Jianfeng, detained in Singapore awaiting trial for money laundering and fraud, owns Dubai-based Fidu Properties DMCC. This firm is a key partner of Emaar Properties PJSC, Dubai’s largest property developer, part-owned by the city’s ruler.
  • Significant Investments: Despite a 2017 Chinese arrest warrant for alleged illegal gambling, Su Jianfeng managed to invest over $30 million in Dubai real estate, some in projects developed by Emaar and brokered by Fidu.
  • Additional Involvement: Two other members of the alleged money laundering ring, including one who has already pleaded guilty, also own significant Dubai properties. Together, they hold assets worth over $40 million.

The Deep Dive

In 2018, Fidu Properties DMCC, founded by Su Jianfeng, quickly rose to prominence in Dubai’s real estate market through a partnership with Emaar Properties. Within months of opening, Fidu and Emaar struck a $100-million deal for luxury projects, solidifying Fidu’s status in the industry.

However, in August last year, Su Jianfeng was arrested in Singapore during a raid that uncovered more than $2.2 billion in assets linked to illegal online gambling and scam operations. The Singapore police charged ten individuals in connection with this case, with six already pleading guilty.

The Dubai Connection

An investigation by OCCRP and The Straits Times, based on leaked property data, revealed that Su Jianfeng and his associates invested heavily in Dubai real estate. These investments include entire floors in luxury skyscrapers like the Grande Downtown and properties worth millions in Emaar’s premier developments.

Despite the massive investments, the details of these transactions remained under the radar until the recent investigation. The data shows that Su Jianfeng purchased over 100 properties worth more than $100 million between 2017 and 2020.

Regulatory Oversight and Concerns

Dubai’s light-touch regulatory approach has allowed such high-volume property investments to proceed with minimal scrutiny. While not all substantial property investments are linked to money laundering, they often raise red flags. Experts argue that more stringent regulations are necessary to prevent the inflow of illicit funds.

Alex Cobham, head of the Tax Justice Network, emphasized the need for stricter due diligence. He pointed out that although Dubai realtors are legally required to carry out anti-money laundering risk assessments, enforcement has been lax.

Implications and Reactions

The involvement of Emaar Properties, part-owned by Dubai’s ruler, adds a layer of complexity to the case. While there is no suggestion that Emaar was aware of the illicit activities, the association could be embarrassing for Dubai’s leadership.

This case underscores the urgent need for enhanced regulatory frameworks to combat money laundering and cybercrime in Dubai. It also highlights the city’s role as a magnet for illicit financial activities, facilitated by its attractive investment environment and lenient oversight.


As investigations continue, the Dubai real estate market remains under intense scrutiny. The revelations from the OCCRP report call for immediate action to bolster regulatory measures and prevent Dubai from further cementing its status as a global cybercrime hotspot.

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