A whistleblower who highlighted suspicious activity at a Dubai firm has hit back after the publication of a damaging finding against her.
In October Anna Waterhouse said Dubai regulators had failed to investigate “suspicious circumstances” at Kaloti, the emirate’s biggest gold refiner.
Subsequently the regulator found she “acted without integrity” in another matter.
That finding was designed to discredit her, Ms Waterhouse has told the BBC.
The DFSA said it had followed “full and fair process”. Both Kaloti and the DFSA have denied any wrongdoing.
Ms Waterhouse, a former general counsel at Deutsche Bank, revealed to the BBC’s Panorama on 28 October that the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) had failed to investigate a “catalogue of suspicious circumstances” at Kaloti.
Kaloti was used by a drug gang to launder money, Panorama found.
But less than eight weeks after the film was broadcast, the DFSA published a finding in a separate matter claiming Ms Waterhouse had “acted without integrity”.
Ms Waterhouse sought to appeal against that finding and prevent it from from being published. But permission to appeal was refused.
“With this decision the Dubai Financial Services Authority has sent a very loud, very clear message to the market about what happens to whistleblowers in their jurisdiction. They get punished,” she said.
“I reported serious money laundering suspicions about Kaloti and financial transactions facilitated by my former employer.
“Instead of investigating the suspected wrongdoing, the DFSA turned on me and have campaigned for years to discredit and undermine me.”
‘Wheelbarrows of cash’
As head of compliance and general counsel at Deutsche Bank in the Middle East, Ms Waterhouse was legally and ethically obliged to report suspicions of money laundering to the authorities.
Colleagues told her in 2012 that Kaloti was withdrawing sums of cash that were so large the money had to be transported in wheelbarrows.
Years later, a joint investigation by BBC Panorama and the French media agency Premieres Lignes discovered that Kaloti had also used cash to pay for 3.6 tonnes of gold from a gang that laundered money from the sale of illegal drugs all over Europe.
Ms Waterhouse filed suspicious activity reports with the Dubai Financial Services Authority and the central bank of the United Arab Emirates.
That prompted the DFSA to launch investigations, but its focus quickly turned not on Kaloti, but onto her and her employer.
Breach of rules
The DFSA investigation eventually found bankers in Deutsche Bank’s Dubai office had broken regulations in a separate case involving its private wealth division.
No clients lost money but the breach of the rules meant the bank faced serious sanctions.
However, Ms Waterhouse was the only manager at Deutsche Bank sanctioned – a finding which she has been fighting through the courts for six years.
On 10 December she was unable for medical reasons to attend a hearing of the DFSA’s Financial Markets Tribunal, sitting in London, where she was seeking permission to appeal the DFSA’s decision.
She applied for a postponement to the Dubai courts, headed by retired British judge Sir Jeremy Cooke, attaching a medical certificate. This was refused. The DFSA said the Court determined that the medical certificate supplied by Ms Waterhouse was “wholly inadequate to support the question of adjournment.”
The DFSA told the BBC the release of the decision was “not in any way linked to the story on BBC Panorama”.
It said the decision represented “the final outcome of a full and fair process” in which Ms Waterhouse had availed herself of avenues of review and appeal.
Following the publication of the DFSA’s decision, the Dubai court has also awarded legal costs against her, likely to run into tens of thousands of pounds.
However Ms Waterhouse said the hearing her case was staffed and paid for by the DFSA. “The process is inherently unfair,” she said.