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UAE: Zirconium Dealer Busted | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a first case of its kind in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf , an Arab man is accused of trying to broker a deal to sell 240 kg of zirconium — a metal that can be used in nuclear reactors and the development of rockets.

Dubai public prosecutor, Essam al-Homaydan, revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat the details of what he described as “a unique case”, since this is the first time the substance zirconium has been the subject of a potential sale in such large quantities.

According to information received from security organs by the Dubai public prosecutor conforms that a “Middleman” of Arab nationality has been trying to broker a deal to sell 240 kg of zirconium that he says is in a location outside of the UAE, and that he was trying to find someone to sell it inside or outside the Emirates.

According to the public prosecutor, a plan was formulated to apprehend the suspected dealer red-handed. Samples of zirconium were found in his possession, and the public prosecutor then turned him over for trial by the Dubai courts.

Al-Homaydan stressed that the investigations carried out by the public prosecution included an examination of the confiscated substance, which confirmed that it was indeed an illegal substance, according to Emirates Federal Law.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, had promulgated last August the first UAE federal law regarding substances that are made subject to import/export legal controls, and regulated the manner of dealing with substances of dual usage.

Public Prosecutor Essam Al-Humaydan admitted that this case “is not a simple matter, and we are looking to the courts to see how they will deal with it, as such cases are foreign to the region.” He explained that investigations made by the public prosecutor confirmed that the accused was trying to establish a base for his business in the region by selling the Zirconium.

However, the public prosecutor refused to name the Arab country where the presumed zirconium is supposed to be, but stressed that aborting that transaction “is evidence of the great effort made by the UAE in keeping the region free of weapons of mass destruction and in preserving its reputation as an international trade center.” He explained that trade in dual usage substances is not illegal, but it is subject to certain clear, predetermined clear criteria and controls that are accepted worldwide to guard against their abuse.

UAE federal law on this matter gives the competent authorities the power to forbid or restrict importing, exporting, or re-exporting of any goods by reasons of safety, public health, the environment, national resources, or national security, or for reasons related to the foreign policy of the state, taking into consideration, quantitative restrictions that may be imposed on goods, by virtue of legislations in force, without prejudice to the authority of the departments concerned, and with due regard to international treaties that the UAE has adhered to or ratified.

This federal law purports to unify the manner of dealing with dual usage goods through out the UAE. Officials in the UAE say that any law of limited application to some emirates but not to others would not achieve the desired result and moreover, the diversity of procedures from one emirate to another would lead to complications and restrict the trade movement in the state as a whole.

Most of the substance of Zirconium is extracted from Zircon, a substance that is resistant to decay, and is basically used in nuclear reactors.

Last year the UAE closed down 40 international and local companies in a campaign that aimed at combating money laundering and illegal trade in substances and machinery that are of dual usage.

UAE authorities justified this move on the grounds that these corporations were involved in money laundering, spreading dual usage goods and substances that are dangerous and illegal according to the treaty on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and other UN resolutions. Some news circulated at the time claimed that some of the corporations that were wound up had proven connections with an international net for smuggling nuclear weapons headed by the Pakistani nuclear engineer and were discovered at that time.