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  1. Wealth
September 15, 2022

Is Ras Al Khaimah ‘the California of the Middle East’?

By Rasika Sittamparam

Dr Sameer Al Ansari, CEO of RAK ICC, sang Ras Al Khaimah (RAK)’s praises at Spear’s 500 Live

In a world where ‘offshore, per se, has become a bad word’, it makes sense for international businesses to seek alternatives.

That’s the view of Dr Sameer Al Ansari, the CEO of corporate registry RAK ICC, who addressed the audience at Spear’s 500 Live in association with The OWO Residences by Raffles. 

In the wake of controversies such as the Pandora Papers and Paradise Papers, the reputation of some traditional offshore financial centres has taken a hit, noted Al Ansari. 

‘We don’t have those legacy issues,’ he said of RAK’s reputation as an international business centre. The UAE, he said, has been a stable jurisdiction for more than 51 years and its courts practise the English common law system. ‘If the [regulators] see a UAE company registered in the RAK ICC, they say, “OK, it’s a real company in a real economy – [it’s] a real business.”’

In this context, he argued, Ras Al Khaimah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, is an attractive new option.

RAK provides access to the UAE’s economy, which has an estimated GDP of $400 billion, noted Al Ansari. It is located 45 minutes away from Dubai, which makes it quieter and more cost-effective. ‘But it’s also becoming a very, very successful business hub, because it’s literally 50 per cent of the cost of doing business in Dubai; 50 per cent of the cost of living of Dubai, but that has all the advantages that the UAE offers,’ he said.

The emirate, Al Ansari said, is becoming increasingly popular among international businesses. Its beaches and mountainous landscape have made it a popular destination for inter-emirate tourism too. This combination, Al Ansari said, makes the relationship between Dubai and RAK similar to the one between two of America’s great centres of entrepreneurship. ‘If you think of New York, that’s Dubai,’ he said. ‘If you think of California, that’s RAK.’

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In March 2022 the UAE was put on the ‘naughty step’, as Spear’s contributing editor Alec Marsh pointed out. The jurisdiction as a whole was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list. But Al Ansari welcomed the designation, suggesting that it would encourage those companies in the region who were falling short to raise their standards. ‘It’s a good thing, I don’t mind that at all, because the bar is set,’ he said. ‘So we need to raise it – it’s the only way to get out.’

Al Ansari added that RAK held an advantage over some longer-established offshore jurisdictions. ‘Do they control their own destiny?’ he asked. ‘The UAE does; the BVI doesn’t.’

Dr Al Ansari was speaking at a panel titled ‘A New Era for International Business Companies’, chaired by Spear’s contributing editor Alec Marsh. The event took place at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah in Knightsbridge.

Spear’s 500 Live 2022 in association with The OWO Residences by Raffles was held at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah in Knightsbridge. The annual event brings the world of Spear’s to life with a programme of panel discussions, keynotes and interviews with leading figures from the worlds of finance, economics, wealth management, law, tax, philanthropy, education, luxury and more. 

The event was sponsored by Butterfield Mortgages, CAF, Finance Malta, IQEQ, MOXO, the Oeno Group, RAK ICC and the Royal Mint.

Watch the full interview with Dr Al Ansari here:

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