Dubai Unlocked

Credit: James O'Brien/OCCRP
Published: May 14, 2024

From its humble days as desert tradepost to its current status as a global financial hub, Dubai has long served as a crossroads for commerce.

But it's not just financiers and footballers who are rubbing shoulders in the city’s glitzy skyscrapers and villa communities today.

Dubai has also become a meeting point for men and women from around the globe who have been accused of criminality and corruption.

With a reputation for financial secrecy, low taxes, and an ever-expanding spread of valuable real estate, the city is an appealing option for those looking to launder or hide cash.

Thanks to a new leak of property records, reporters have identified scores of individuals from around the world who own property in Dubai, and whose holdings we believe to be in the public interest to reveal.

They include alleged money launderers and drug lords, political figures accused of corruption and their associates, and businessmen sanctioned for financing terrorism, among others.

Dubai Unlocked, an investigative project involving more than 70 media outlets around the globe, is the most up-to-date look yet at who owns what in the Middle Eastern city.

What Is 'Dubai Unlocked'? Everything You Need To Know

Frequently asked questions about the global investigation into Dubai property ownership.

14 May 2024 Read the article


Singapore Money Laundering Suspects Invested Huge Sums in Dubai Property

Three people arrested in a raid on an alleged money laundering ring in Singapore invested over $30 million in Dubai real estate, leaked data reveals. One of the suspects, who was wanted in China at the time, was behind a property broker that became a major sales agent for the city’s largest real estate developer, part-owned by Dubai’s ruler.

16 May 2024 Read the article

Top Crypto Scammers Managed to Sell Dubai Properties After Being Charged

So-called CryptoQueen Ruja Ignatova and her security adviser, Frank Schneider, liquidated Dubai assets despite being charged in the U.S. for their alleged roles in a $4bn fraud. The whereabouts of both is unknown.

15 May 2024 Read the article

Destination Dubai: As the U.S. Was Rebuilding Afghanistan, Contractors Snapped up Properties in the UAE

As billions of U.S. dollars flowed in to rebuild Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, many contractors were accused of skimming reconstruction funds. Today, some of them own luxury properties in Dubai.

14 May 2024 Read the article

News and Updates

Cyprus at Center of Sanctioned Afghan Politician’s International Business Empire

A lawsuit against the U.S. government by two former Afghan parliamentarians reveals they continue to hold Cyprus passports –– despite advice to authorities to review their citizenship.

15 May 2024Read the article

Previous Reporting on Dubai Real Estate

Dubai's Golden Sands

Dubai has transformed itself into an extravagant metropolis where the police drive Lamborghinis and edible gold ice cream costs US $800 a scoop. But this success story is inextricably linked with the globalization of organized crime and corruption.

12 June 2018Check out the project

Dubai Uncovered: Data Leak Exposes How Criminals, Officials, and Sanctioned Politicians Poured Money Into Dubai Real Estate

Russian politicians under Western sanctions, financial criminals, and corrupt European officials all own real estate in the emirate, which attracts investors with liberal residency rules and a ‘few questions asked’ approach to regulation.

3 May 2022Read the article

The Project Team

Journalists: Abdelhak El Idrissi (Le Monde), Abdelwahed Alobaly, Aidila Razak (Malaysiakini), Aiganysh Aidarbekova (Bellingcat), Alesya Marokhovskaya (IStories), Ali Al ibrahim (SIRAJ), Allegra Mendelson (Frontier Myanmar), Alyaa Alhajri (Malaysiakini), Anand Mangnale (OCCRP), Anastasia Korotkova (IStories), Anastasiia Morozova (, Andras Petho (Direkt36), Andreas Cosma (OCCRP), Angie Wu (ICIJ), Anna Babinets (OCCRP/Slidstvo.Info), Annys Shin (ICIJ), Anton Septian (Tempo), Arwa Barkallah (OCCRP), Atanas Tchobanov (BIRD.BG), Atika Rehman (Dawn), Axel Gordh Humlesjö (SVT), Barbora Šturmová (, Bastian Obermayer (Paper Trail Media), Beauregard Tromp (OCCRP), Begoña P. Ramírez (infoLibre), Bojana Jovanović (KRIK), Carina Huppertz (Paper Trail Media), Carmen Molina Acosta (ICIJ), Conor Gallagher (The Irish Times), Dan Mika (OCCRP), Daniel Flis (, Daniel Szoke (Direkt36), Daniela Vivas Labrador (ICIJ), David Ilieski (IRL/OCCRP), David Kenner (ICIJ), Daiva Repeckaite (OCCRP), Dean Starkman (ICIJ), Delphine Reuter (ICIJ), Diamant Salihu (SVT), Dimitar Stoyanov (BIRD.BG), Dmitriy Mazorenko (Vlast), Dmitry Velikovskiy (IStories), Edoardo Anziano (IrpiMedia), Eduardo Goulart (OCCRP), Ekaterina Selivanova (OCCRP), Eldiyar Arykbaev (OCCRP), Elisa Simantke (Paper Trail Media), Elizaveta Tsybulina (IStories), Emiel Woutersen (Investico), Emma Yeomans (The Times), Evert de Vos (De Groene Amsterdammer), Fabian Schmid (Der Standard), Fahim Abed (Lighthouse Reports), Fakhar Durrani (The News International), Fatima Karimova (Mikroskop Media), Fergus Shiel (ICIJ), Frederik Obermaier (Paper Trail Media), George Greenwood (The Times), Giacomo Tognini (Forbes), Hala Nasreddine (Daraj), Hamish Boland-Rudder (ICIJ), Hannes Munzinger (Paper Trail Media), Hans Jørgen Myrvang (E24), Hariz Mohd (Malaysiakini), Hazem El Amin (Daraj), Irina Dolinina (Istories), Iulia Stănoiu (Context Investigative Reporting Project Romania), Jacob Borg (Times of Malta), Jelena Radivojević (KRIK), Jérémie Baruch (Le Monde), Jessica Purkiss (Lighthouse Reports), Jiyoon Kim (KCIJ-Newstapa), Joachim Dyfvermark (SVT), Joanna Robin (ICIJ), Johannes Bauer (ZDF), Jyri Hänninen (Yle), Kamila Plzáková (, Karrie Kehoe (ICIJ), Kevin G. Hall (OCCRP), Khadija Sharife (OCCRP), Kira Tolstiakova (Schemes, RFE/RL Ukrainian service), Kira Zalan (OCCRP), Koh Jun Lin (Malaysiakini), Krisna Pradipta (Tempo), Kristof Clerix (Knack), Kyrylo Ovsianyi (Schemes, RFE/RL Ukrainian service), Lars Bové (De Tijd), Lilia Saúl (OCCRP), Linda Kakuli (SVT), Lorenzo Bagnoli (IrpiMedia), Luc Caregari (, Lukáš Diko (Investigative center of Jan Kuciak), Lyas Hallas (Twala), Mahtab Divsalar (Zamaneh Media), Mahulena Kopecká (, Maja Jovanovska (IRL), Maksym Savchuk (Schemes, RFE/RL Ukrainian service), Marcel Rosenbach (Der Spiegel), Maria Zholobova (IStories), Mariana Betanzos (El Universal), Marieke Rotman (Investico), Mariusz Sepioło (, Marta Orosz (ZDF), Martin Young (OCCRP), Matthew Agius (Malta Today), Matthew Garvey (Context Investigative Reporting Project Romania), Micael Pereira (Expresso), Mihaela Tănase (Context Investigative Reporting Project Romania), Mocache Massoko (Diario Rombe), Milan Czerny (Shomrim), Mohammed Bassiki (SIRAJ), Myungju Lee (KCIJ-Newstapa), Naziha Syed Ali (Dawn), Nick McKenzie (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald), Nicole Sadek (ICIJ), Nikita Saxena (OCCRP / The Confluence Media), Dlovan Barwari (Nirij), Odinaka Anudu (Economy Post), Olga Loginova (Vlast), Ooi Choon Nam (Malaysiakini), Parth MN (OCCRP / The Confluence Media), Prajwal Bhat (OCCRP/The Confluence Media), Rasit Elibol (De Groene Amsterdammer), Richard H.P. Sia (ICIJ), Riku Roslund (Yle), Rizkika Syifa (Tempo), Salim Sadat (ZDF), Sana Sbouai (OCCRP), Šarūnas Černiauskas (Siena), Saska Cvetkovska (IRL), Scilla Alecci (ICIJ), Serhii Andrushko (Schemes, RFE/RL Ukrainian service), Shota Fujii (The Nikkei), Silber Meza (El Universal), Sonya Savina (Istories), Stevan Dojčinović (OCCRP/KRIK), Tadeusz Michrowski (, Thomas Mukhwana (Africa Uncensored), Tomáš Madleňák (Investigative center of Jan Kuciak), Toru Tsunashima (The Nikkei), Umar Cheema (The News), Uri Blau (Shomrim), Vinicius Madureira (OCCRP), Vinothaa Selvatoray (Malaysiakini), Vladislav Son (Vlast), Vyacheslav Abramov (OCCRP/Vlast), Will Thorne (Al Jazeera), Xavier Counasse (Le Soir), Yanina Korniienko (Slidstvo.Info), Yarno Ritzen (Al Jazeera), Yuichiro Kanematsu (The Nikkei), Zack Kopplin (Government Accountability Project), Zaki Daryabi (Etilaat Roz), Zuzana Šotová (

Editing: Daisy Sindelar, Jared Ferrie, Julia Wallace, Laura Mannering, Matthew Doig, Peter Jones, Sally Mairs (OCCRP)

Research and Data: Alina Tsogoeva, Andreas Cosma, Eric Barrett, Katie Sawyer, Madeleine Pennington, Misha Gagarin, Purity Mukami, S. L, Sharad Vyas, Yan Z.H., Daiva Repeckaite (OCCRP)

Fact-Checking: Birgit Brauer, Bojana Pavlović, Ia Asatiani, Ivana Jeremić, Maura Quatorze, and Olena LaFoy (OCCRP)

Promotion: Brindusa Nastasa, Fabienne Meijer, Kathlyn Clore, Lauren Jackman, Sergiu Brega (OCCRP)

Design and Graphics: James O'Brien and Edin Pašović (OCCRP)

Photo Editing: Erika Di Benedetto (OCCRP)

Web and Interactive: Fabienne Meijer and Alex de Santa (OCCRP)

Project Coordination: Eiliv Frich Flydal (E24); Antonio Baquero, Karina Shedrofsky, Alexandra Li, and Lara Dihmis (OCCRP)

Media Partners: Africa Uncensored, Al Jazeera, AZDA TV, Belarusian Investigative Center, BIRD, Buro Media, Civilnet, Context Investigative Reporting Project Romania, Cyprus Investigative Reporting Network, DARAJ, Dawn, De Groene Amsterdammer, Delfi, Der Spiegel, Der Standard, De Tijd, Diario Rombe, Direkt36, Economy Post, Expresso, Etilaat Roz, El Universal, E24, Forbes, Frontier Myanmar, Foundation, Government Accountability Project, InfoLibre, Inside story, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Investico,, Investigative Center of Jan Kuciak, Investigative Reporting Lab - IRL, IrpiMedia, iStories, Knack, Korea Center for Investigative Journalism (KCIJ)-Newstapa, KRIK, Le Monde, Le Soir, Lighthouse Reports, Malaysiakini, Malta Today, Mikroskop Media, NIRIJ, OCCRP, Oštro, Paper Trail Media,, Schemes (RFE/RL Ukrainian service), Siena, Shomrim, SIRAJ, Slidstvo.Info, Straits Times, SVT, Tempo, The Age, The Confluence Media, The Irish Times, The News International Pakistan, The Nikkei, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Times, Times of Malta, Twala, VG, Vlast, Yle, Zamaneh Media, and ZDF

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