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Exclusive-From Russia with Gold: UAE Cashes in as Sanctions Bite

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By Peter Hobson

(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The UAE has become a key trading hub for Russian gold since Western sanctions against Ukraine cut off Russia’s most traditional export routes, Russian customs data showed.

The records, which detail nearly a thousand gold shipments in the year since the start of the war in Ukraine, show the Gulf state imported 75.7 tons of Russian gold worth $4.3 billion. compared to just 1.3 tons in 2021.

China and Turkey were the next largest destinations, importing around 20 tonnes each between February 24, 2022 and March 3, 2023. Along with the UAE, the three countries accounted for 99.8 percent of Russian gold exports in customs data for this period.

In the days following the start of the conflict in Ukraine, many multinational banks, logistics service providers and precious metals refineries stopped handling Russian gold, which was typically shipped to London, a gold trading and storage center .

The London Bullion Market Association has banned Russian-produced bullion since March 7, 2022, and by the end of August, Britain, the European Union, Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Japan had banned imports of Russian bullion.

Export records show, however, that Russian gold producers quickly found new markets in countries that hadn’t imposed sanctions on Moscow, such as the UAE, Turkey and China.

Louis Marechal, a gold sourcing expert at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said there is a risk that Russian gold could be melted and remelted and then find its way back into US and European markets with the its hidden origin.

“If Russian gold arrives, is remelted by a local refiner, bought by a local bank or trader and then sold on the market, there is a risk,” he said. “This is why carrying out due diligence is crucial for end-buyers who want to ensure they are complying with sanctioning regimes.”

The UAE government’s Gold Bullion Committee said the state operated with clear and robust processes against illicit goods, money laundering and sanctioned entities.

“The UAE will continue to trade openly and honestly with its international partners in accordance with all current international norms set by the United Nations,” he said.


In a bid to further isolate Russia, Washington has warned countries, including the UAE and Turkey, that they could lose access to G7 markets if they do business with US-sanctioned entities.

The data reviewed by RockedBuzz via Reuters does not suggest that there have been any violations of US sanctions by those countries.

The US Treasury, whose Office of Foreign Assets Control imposes sanctions, did not respond to requests for comment.

Shipments in customs data, provided to RockedBuzz via Reuters by a commercial supplier, show exports of 116.3 tonnes between February 24 2022 and March 3 this year, although consultant Metals Focus estimates Russia produced 325 tonnes of gold. in 2022.

The rest of the gold mined in Russia probably either remained in the country or was exported in transactions not included in the records. RockedBuzz via Reuters was unable to determine what percentage of Russia’s total gold exports were covered by the data.

Most shipments of Russian gold to China went to Hong Kong. China’s foreign affairs ministry said the country’s cooperation with Russia “will be free from disruption or coercion by third parties.”

Turkey’s finance ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The Russian government, customs authority and central bank did not respond to requests for comment on gold exports.

Moving Russian exports away from London is not seen as a major blow as the hub is not dependent on Russia. In 2021, for example, gold from Russia accounted for 29% of London’s imports, but in 2018 it accounted for just 2%, British trade data shows.

The UAE, meanwhile, has long had a thriving gold industry. Trade data shows it imported an average of around 750 tonnes of pure gold annually between 2016 and 2021, meaning shipments in Russian records would account for only around 10% of its imports.

The UAE is a major exporter of bullion and jewellery.


The manager of a company that shipped large quantities of Russian gold to the UAE told RockedBuzz via Reuters that Russian firms had been selling bullion there at about 1% discount to global benchmark prices, offering an incentive to trade .

The manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most of the gold shipped from his company to the UAE was destined for refineries, where it would be smelted and remelted.

RockedBuzz via Reuters asked four of Russia’s biggest gold miners for comment. Nordgold and Norilsk Nickel declined to comment. Polyus and Polymetal did not respond.

For a FACTBOX detailing some of the major companies involved in shipments of Russian gold since the start of the war in Ukraine, click here.

In many cases, customs records only show the shippers or merchants involved in the transactions, not the ultimate purchaser, who might be a refiner, jeweler or investor.

Records show the largest handler of Russian gold exported to the UAE was Temis Luxury Middle East, a Dubai subsidiary of French logistics firm Temis Luxury involved in the shipment of 15.6 tons worth $863 million from April 2022 to 3 March.

Broca Houy, head of compliance at Temis Luxury Group, said the company “fully complies with UAE laws and regulations for forwarder business.”

He said Temis has not bought Russian gold and has only accepted transport orders from operators not subject to US sanctions.

When asked about the shipments, the French finance ministry said it would not comment on individual cases, but was very busy enforcing the sanctions.

European sanctions typically don’t apply to overseas subsidiaries, so European firms whose subsidiaries were involved in shipments of Russian gold to the UAE, Turkey or Hong Kong would not necessarily have broken any laws, said Tan Albayrak, a lawyer specializing in Russian gold. sanctions at Reed Smith in London. .

The second-largest handler of Russian bullion in the UAE, with involvement in shipments of 14.6 tonnes worth $820 million, was logistics company Transguard, part of the Emirates Group, the airline- hotels owned by the Gulf State Asset Fund.

Emirates said it did not purchase Russian gold, operated in full compliance with applicable laws and stopped its transportation.

“Due to recent regulatory developments, Transguard no longer provides logistics services related to gold shipments to or from Russia,” he said.

In Hong Kong, most of the shipments of Russian gold were handled by Vpower Finance Security Hong Kong Ltd, a Chinese logistics company. It was involved in importing 20.5 tons of gold worth $1.2 billion between May 2022 and March 3, records show.

Vpower Finance Security did not respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Layli Foroudi in Paris and in the Beijing press room; Editing by David Clarke)

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