There's gold in them thar Emirates—and there's a lot more of it now that Western sanctions have blocked exports from Russia to London and other major gold trading hubs. Reuters reports that, according to Russian export records, some 75.7 metric tons of Russian gold worth $4.3 billion arrived in the United Arab Emirates in the year after Russia invaded Ukraine, up from 1.3 tons in 2021. During the same period, China and Turkey imported around 20 tons of Russian gold each, with the two countries plus the UAE accounting for 99.8% of gold exports listed in Russian records.
The UAE, long a major exporter of gold bullion and jewelry, insists it is "in compliance with all current international norms," though gold sourcing expert Louis Marechal tells Reuters that the Russian gold could end up being sold to Western markets with its origin disguised. "If the Russian gold comes in, is recast by a local refiner, sourced by a local bank or trader, and then sold on into the market, there you have a risk," he says. "This is why carrying out due diligence is instrumental to end buyers wishing to ensure they respect" sanctions against regimes.
After the invasion, Russia was sanctioned by the European Union and countries including the US, Japan, and even Switzerland, a major gold hub that generally remains neutral. The Financial Times, however, reported last month that a loophole in Swiss law allowed foreign subsidiaries of the country's businesses to continue trading in Russian gold and other sanctioned goods as long as they were classed as "legally independent." A "non-circumvention" clause in EU sanctions bars subsidiaries of EU companies from trading in banned Russian goods. (Read more Russia sanctions stories.)