DUBAI has taken over from the Costa del Sol as the place of choice for British criminals to launder the proceeds of crime in businesses and evade justice, senior detectives claim.
Marbella and other southern Spanish resorts were renamed the Costa del Crime in the 1980s due to the proliferation of British gangsters setting up base there to hide out or plough cash into business enterprises.
But, the United Arab Emirates city has become the new destination of choice as a bolthole for flashy gangsters to clean up millions of pounds of ill-gotten gains or dodge extradition, it has emerged.
Many investigations into UK-based multi-million pound crime gangs now trace back to the city, where cash is being "cleaned up" through luxury construction work and other business interests.
The National Crime Agency (NCA), often called Britain's FBI, is working closely with counterparts in Dubai to try to stop illicit cash from the UK arriving in the city.
STASHED: Cash (above and top) bound for Dubai seized by NCA investigators (NCA)
The NCA revealed last month it had arrested 24 people from northern counties linked to a crime gang suspected of smuggling millions of pounds to Dubai in suitcases flown out from the UK.
NCA operations manager Jon Hughes said: “Border Force did excellent work preventing the money leaving the UK and we have a series of lines of enquiry to pursue and are working effectively with our partners in Dubai Police."
The NCA has also charged 12 people it says are part of a separate west London outfit believed to have smuggled £15m from the UK to Dubai in the same way.
In August the agency froze around £100m held across eight bank accounts with a UK branch of the Dubai Government's Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, as part of "an investigation into "corruption and bribery overseas."
The accounts were those of members of the Pakistani elite, who all had addresses in the Emirate Hills area of Dubai, a luxury gated community, said to contain some of the most expensive real estate in the city.
LUXURY: Property in Emirate Hills area of Dubai is some of the most expensive in the city (Luxhabitat.ae)
A senior detective, with years of experience investigating organised crime, who would not be named, said: "We are seeing more British serious criminals basing themselves or laundering money in Dubai.
"It is like the new Costa del Sol. Because of the poor extradition record from Dubai to the UK criminals feel they can operate from there with impunity."
The Kinahan Cartel is a major outfit, suspected of international drug smuggling, which has relocated from Marbella to Dubai.
The gangsters, who originate from the Republic of Ireland, but have a network of associates across the UK, are believed to have set up in Dubai to frustrate investigations into them by the NCA and Irish Garda and Criminal Assets Bureau.
They are also lying low there due to an ongoing feud with the rival Hutch gang, which has allegedly claimed up to 20 lives.
RESIDENCE: ID docs showing Daniel and Christopher Kinahan Dubai residence (UAE)
Leaked documents for Daniel, 42, and Christopher, 39, Kinahan, who lead the organisation with their father Christy "the Dapper Don" Kinahan, 63, show they have been been given resident identity cards by the Dubai authorities and accepted in the country as legitimate businessmen, running a "consultancy" firm.
Mick Gallagher, head of the Met Police Serious Crime Command, said: "Dubai is a hub with a geographical location virtually in the centre of the Earth and it's a main global transport hub.
"There is also a hell of a lot of construction out there and there is huge (financial) regulation in London and the lack of regulation in Dubai means it has become a money laundering centre globally."
An NCA spokesman said: "We don’t routinely comment on international partners but we have a good relationship with law enforcement partners in the UAE."