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Intertwining Precious Metals With Web 3 & Blockchain – Aslam Sooltangos

Aslam Sooltangos is the CEO of Gold Hive Tranding LLC, Bee Gold FZCO, and Pulsar Consulting FZE. Being a leader in multiple businesses, the work process of Aslam Sooltangos is very inspiring for all. Further, he was the Runner up in the 2018 MENA Awards for the Emerging CFO category.

He started his professional life in Mauritius and is currently an inspirational leader in the UAE. His company, Gold Hive Trading LLC, is a trading company for precious metals and stones. The company incorporates professionals with over 20+ years of combined experience in the trading, mining, and refining sectors. The company even has a social media presence on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Aslam Sooltangos through our interview below. https://entrepreneurdesk.co/intertwining-precious-metals-with-web-3-blockchain-aslam-sooltangos/

What are your goals?

Gold Hive Trading LLC

Gold Hive Trading LLC (GH) is a Precious Metals, Precious Stones, and Jewelry company that was incorporated and licensed in 2021 in Dubai. Bee Gold FZCO was incorporated in 2022 in the IFZA Free Zone in UAE. The group comprises top-notch professionals aggregating over 20 years of experience in the precious metals industry, from gold mining, gold trading, logistics, security, aviation, gold refining, and financial services.

As the majority shareholder and CEO, my objective is to do business differently, where disruption is not only a tagline but a reality. The dropping of our FIRST in the world and unique, sustainable NFT collection fully backed by gold on 2nd September 2022 (www.beegoldnft.com), is testimony to that.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of yourself/company right now?

My biggest strength is our belief in our vision and strategy. The organisation’s backbone is the super team I have with me, and we all share the same goals. We also believe that doing things right at the appropriate moment gives an organisation a sound base for success. And lastly, we are very agile and are ready to embrace change rather than resist it. When the chips are down, patience and resilience are also vital to any organisation’s survival. Everything is possible if God wills!

What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?

I am a Mauritian national and an FCCA (Fellow of the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants (UK). After spending my first few professional years in Mauritius (PWC Audit Firm and textiles industry), I joined G4S Plc in 2002 in Ivory Coast. I spent 12 years with them in various Regional Finance Director roles, which meant that I was stationed in various countries, such as Morocco, the UK, and UAE. I was responsible for the North and West Africa Region (13 countries and 20,000 employees) when I departed from G4S in 2014.

That same year I joined a young entrepreneur and was acting as Group CFO. This is where I got into the Precious Metals territory and had experience in various industries. When I joined the group, the revenue was USD 50m, and after a couple of years, we were peaking at +/- USD 500m, a tenfold increase.

In 2018 I won an award as Emerging CFO (Runner Up) for the MENA Region in the UAE, locking horns with CFOs/FDs from Microsoft, Dubai Ports, and other Blue Chip companies.

And finally, in 2021, I decided to depart from the group and create my own company with my current business partner.

Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?

I felt I was ready to move from the role of CFO to embrace the entrepreneurship and CEO position after amassing considerable experience (professional and human) throughout my career.

Aslam Sooltangos

We are here to disrupt the market and adhere to UAE’s vision regarding economic growth, digital economy, ethical business, sustainability, and environmental initiatives.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Viewed from various angles, the precious metals industry is a high-risk business – crime, ethics, reputation, and perception. Our aim is to show the industry that transparency, ethics, and doing the right things bring long-term and sustainable success to organisations. We also challenged ourselves and pushed our limits to embrace Web 3 space and Blockchain, something that requires immense technology adaptation.

Give us one word that describes you the best.

Passionate

What makes you excited about Mondays?

We operate as a family and I value my team members. Monday morning meetings are the best moments of the week for me. It allows me to reconnect with my team to share our ideas, monitor the progress of our various projects, measure our performance, and give traction to our plans. And also to talk about weekend activities, recreation, sports and leisure.

What do you value most about your culture and vision?

Our corporate culture perfectly fits UAE’s culture and vision, i.e., integrity, hard work, commitment, diversity, innovation, agility, belief, sustainability, growth, empathy, and being the ‘NUMBER ONE.

Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
Bee Gold

Bee Gold is proud to be the FIRST company in the UAE and MENA Region and the world to launch an NFT, which is UNIQUE in its offering.

“Bee Gold” is the first and one-of-a-kind limited collection of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), which:

  • Is Backed FULLY* by physical gold; and
  • Is actively contributing to the preservation and proliferation of bees in the United Arab Emirates to safeguard the ecosystem and environment while fighting climate change.

*After deducting applicable fees

We are taking the traditional gold trading sector to web3 space!!

What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?

We have a clear vision of where we want to be and, most importantly, who we want to be. In that journey, we recognise that change will be a constant as much as honesty and integrity. So bolting our strategy on these sound bases will hopefully bring us greater success. We do things differently. Disruption, agility and empathy are not just words; these are in our DNA. We obviously want to pursue quantum leaps in organic growth and, at a later stage, seek high-end partnerships and collaborations with the best in any industry which encompasses our business activity.

What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career?

Separating the good from the bad, making the right decisions, and not fearing temporary downsides are key. Being a firm believer in God and religion’s power is central to how I operate. Equipped with this and my expertise puts me in better shape to ride storms and celebrate success.

Tell us something about any memorable incident in your leadership.

There have been a few over these last 25 years.

One of them was my active role in turning around a loss-making business during my G4S days. We faced accounting fraud, and the business was making a loss of 5% as opposed to a reported EBITA of 12%. The company had to be cleaned up as it was rotten from within. We faced many challenges, pressure, strikes and cash flow strain. But through grit, courage and determination, we managed to turn around the situation within 6 months, and at the same time, we made a bolt acquisition of a security company which helped us consolidate our position as the market leader.

But I would like to mention another incident. When I created my company with my partner, we were sitting down in the office, and I told the team that we should be trading gold on the Blockchain within a year. Funnily enough, after a few weeks, we received an invitation from DMCC to participate in the 2021 Precious Metals Conference, and one of the key addresses was around the use of Blockchain in the industry. The DMCC, during that conference, laid down a marker and started a massive push to promote Crypto and Blockchain. After that conference, we were more than convinced that we should take that route. And today, we are proud to say that we achieved our goal and to top it all, we are the first company in the MENA Region as well as the world to make such an offering.

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

As a CEO, you need to be aware of the environment in which you operate. You must be quick in grasping opportunities and turn downsides into opportunities. We want to take the best out of the traditional precious metals and stones trading but also embrace and actively participate in innovation and digital and technological advancement. We are extremely agile as an organisation. The fact that I have been heavily exposed to at least 10 industries and being geographically involved in businesses in over 30 countries also gives me confidence in my abilities to navigate unchartered waters and drive change and innovation. I do not restrain myself from finding opportunities within one industry.

As an example, I am also exploring other projects in agriculture. If these come to fruition, they will positively impact the lives of tens of thousands of small farmers and, by default, hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa. This will be a long-term project, but we have to start now, and I have already opened talks with the largest commodities exchanges in Africa and UAE.

So in the next few years, I see my company taking the wave of technological advancement and digital economy while being rooted in the physical fundamentals of the trade. I believe in value creation backed by physical commodities and not paper commodities (in their current shape), which create wealth (at times obscure wealth), speculation, distorting long-term perspective of industries, and a promise to deliver on unfeasible things. As an example, today, there is way more gold being traded than what has been extracted physically!

Being an organisation implanted in UAE puts us in the perfect ecosystem to develop our vision, strategies and targets. We are perfectly aligned with what this country wishes to achieve by 2030, i.e. hiking the Digital Economy to +15% of GDP (it was only 4% of GDP in 2021). Even though more taxes are being imposed in UAE (VAT, Corporation Tax in 2023, etc..), it remains an ideal country to carry out business.

Where is your leadership going?

I am a strong believer in teamwork. All ideas from my team are valued and essential. There is a perfectly collaborative approach in my man management. I recognise that an organisation is worthless without a good and solid team. Empowering employees, making them part of decision making, empathy, and using emotional intelligence, guidance, and motivation are key ingredients in reaching our corporate objectives and having a happy, loyal and strong team.

What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?

If we take our NFT project as an example, we provide a hybrid project which circumvents the risks of losses on NFTs by backing it with gold. There are two major leverages from which the NFT owner can benefit, i.e., favourable movements in gold prices or the intrinsic value of the NFT itself. The project is built around fantastic 3D artwork and is also quite an important initiative around honey bees’ protection.

We have adopted a bee colony made up of 60,000 bees in the UAE. This shall contribute to their proliferation, improve pollination, and by default, help fight climate change. So our clients benefit from our products directly and indirectly through our bee program. To summarise, our NFT is an investment in artwork, precious metals, and the environment. This is why our NFT is unique and extremely attractive.

What are the services/solutions or products offered by your company on par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.

Our next moves will be around stifling our presence in our core business (Precious Metals) and digital economy. We are already preparing the next NFT collection, which will be bigger. We will continue our journey into the Metaverse and other platforms and participate in the transformation of trade into a much more easy and simple experience and, at the same time, safe and secure (e.g. Blockchain).

My team and I constantly monitor all AML and KYC regulations and make sure that we strictly abide by them.

We are also venturing into a small-scale gold mining venture in West Africa. Prospection is ongoing, and we are hopeful to kick start after Q3 2022. We shall then develop this activity further and move to a larger-scale mining operation in 2023.

We are also making good strides in the link-ups in the agriculture sector between Africa and UAE. Our extensive experience and network in these geographies are key success factors.

Connect with Aslam Sooltangos on LinkedIn.

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Tags: Aslam SooltangosGold Hive Tranding LLCPulsar Consulting FZE

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PRESS RELEASE

Gold Hive is a jewelry, precious metals and precious stones trading company based in
Dubai, the city of gold and digital assets center of the world.
The Gold Hive management is pleased to announce that the Bee Gold NFT project is to be
launched soon.
The Bee Gold NFT project, is the first and one of a kind limited collection of Non-Fungible
Tokens (NFTs) which is backed by physical gold and is actively contributing to the
preservation and proliferation of bees to safeguard our eco-system.
The Bee gold NFT project focuses on bridging the gap between physical and digital assets
in the industry.
For the latest updates on the Bee Gold NFT project, follow us on our official social media
channels:

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BLOG FROM THE CEO OF PULSAR CONSULTING FZE (UAE)

POST COVID BOOM LURRING

The mother of all disruptors turned the whole world upside down. As the vaccination campaigns around the world gather more and more momentum there are glimpses of an economic re-boost around the corner. In UAE, nearly 80% of the population is fully vaccinated. At the dawn of ‘Expo 2020’ the UAE has shown its characteristic resilience and rode the storm to reach the opening gates of what would certainly be a new notch towards its vision. Bold geo-political decisions laid another pillar to create an even more dynamic economic environment conducive to business.

For some industries, the COVID pandemic has certainly been very rewarding. Working from home and the resulting surge in the digital economy has driven demand for semiconductors, leaving a shortage that is reshaping investment into the sector. South Korea plans to spend roughly $450 billion, led by Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc., to build the world’s biggest chipmaking base over the next decade.

A global capex boom, post-pandemic era is definitely on the cards. Sceptics would tend to believe that a deepening of the pandemic would curb economic growth, but the statistics are showing a different trend. Capital spending has seen growth in all sectors and regions, with expenditure especially strong in semi-conductors and software.

On the supply side, blockages brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic are forcing businesses to invest in new production facilities; calls for a cleaner environment are spurring spending on electric vehicles, batteries and alternative energy; and the big semiconductor crunch has prompted a wave of investment.

On the demand side, pent up consumer spending is convincing executives that capital is worth outlaying, a sign that business is buying into the world’s economic recovery prospects even as the delta strain casts a shadow. Fueling it all are low interest rates and bets they’ll stay that way.

Globally, corporate capital expenditure, or capex, will jump by 13% this year, according to S&P Global Ratings, with growth in all regions and broad sectors, especially in semiconductors, retail, software and transportation. Economists at Morgan Stanley forecast that global investment will reach 115% and 121% of pre-recession levels by the end of 2021 and end of 2022, a much faster recovery than previous downturns. 

Another dynamo is climate change, which is forcing companies to retool operations as governments push through clean energy policies. A record $174 billion was invested in solar, offshore wind and other green technologies and companies in the first half of this year.

As these new pockets of opportunities come up, we at Pulsar Consulting FZE, are adequately equipped to accompany your business and steering it in the right direction.

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Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones (DPMS) and Banking in the UAE

It is no secret that, as a repercussion of the UAE’s fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, operators in the precious metals and stones sector are facing new challenges with regards to banking. Due to the high-risk nature of working with precious metals and stones entities, financial institutions have implemented layers of additional requirements. The traditional way DPMS hve been operating, that is, mostly through cash transactions and outside the financial circuit is slowly proving itself redundant. And as such less and less financial institutions are supporting such DPMS.

The Central Bank of UAE has thus published a Guidance for licensed financial institutions providing services to the real estate and the precious metals and stones sectors dated June 2021 whereby it is made clear that: “Although LFIs (licensed financial institutions) should judge their own risk tolerance and risk management capabilities, the CBUAE does not expect or encourage LFIs to broadly prohibit or exit customer relationships with the real estate and precious metals and stones sectors. These sectors are important parts of the UAE economy, and they need access to financial services to conduct their legitimate business. The CBUAE does expect, however, that LFIs understand their risk and take effective, risk-based steps to protect themselves from abuse and from illicit actors and transactions.”

The FATF’s Mutual Evaluation Report of the UAE issued in April 2020 identified the precious metals and stones sector as highly important in terms of risk and materiality in the UAE. The risks are mostly associated to factors such as the product itself, the jurisdictions of trade, the suppliers and the clients involved.

Hereinunder is a highlight of the risks associated with precious metals and stones and how we would recommend DPMS to mitigate them through a risk-based approach and customer due diligence so as to encourage LFIs to work with them.

Risk – Attractiveness to illicit finance

Recommendations – Clearly identify the UBOs of the entity and provide clear information on the source of funds of the UBOs by providing documents to support the legitimacy of the funds. The same information should be requested from suppliers and clients on their onboarding process by the company to have one more chain of the line checked and a screening should be done in regard to applicable sanction lists. (Usually, financial institutions will ask for a list of suppliers and clients in their onboarding process for another layer of check). If applicable register the transactions with the FIU through the goAML platform so as the authorities may have a better monitoring. Raise a suspicious activity report if needed.

Risk – Facilitation of the International movement of value/ Difficult to track movements/ Can be transformed.

Recommendation – Record all the import and export documents, coupled with accredited refineries or laboratories report in regard to the identification of the bars and the purities. Record the tax payment in the country of origin and record payment to the supplier in the country of origin (preferably by wire transfer).

Risk – AML/CFT regulations in the country of sourcing vary

Recommendation – As part of the due diligence process, DPMS should have an understanding of the legal framework around AML/CFT regulations in the country of origin. They should implement an internal process of evaluating if a minimum number of fundamental requirements are covered by the legislation in place so as to ensure that the companies operating in those jurisdictions should comply to those requirements. If the country is a FATF member then their mutual evaluation report on that particular country could be another tool to assess that at least a fundamental number of requirements are covered. Those requirements could be: obligation of identifying the UBOs, are there any politically exposed persons in the UBOs, shareholders, directors, the identification in regard to the source of funds, amongst others.

Risk – PMS mostly sourced from high-risk jurisdictions

Recommendation – DPMS should refrain from working with sanctioned countries. An internal evaluation should be done in regard to other sourcing countries based on factors such as the jurisdiction’s regulations in regard to AML/CFT, political and economic stability, corruption index, geographical position, borders control, yearly production in PMS and yearly export, banking system, availability of value in transit operators, among others. Working from those jurisdictions should automatically trigger the enhanced due diligence internally.

Risk – Illegal mining or mining supported by the proceeds of crime

Recommendation – As part of the onboarding process, suppliers should be asked to submit their gold trading license and the mining permit from where they are sourcing. The DPMS should have a full understanding of the supply chain and checks should be made in compliance with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.  

Below is a proposed checklist for DPMS to onboard suppliers and clients so as to give LFIs confidence in working with them:

–         Identify the name, address, incorporation, tax details, website and if the company has audited accounts.

–         Understand the business, the product, the market and the transactions flow of the customers and suppliers.

–         Identifying the shareholders, Ultimate beneficiary and management structure of customers and suppliers.

–         Identify the financial information of the customers and suppliers.

–         Identify the economic substance of customers and suppliers (number of employees, physical office).

–         Identify the source of funds of customers and suppliers (Company profile, partners profile).

–         Identify the compliance of the customer or supplier in terms of AML/CFT policies and procedures, Anti Bribery policy and procedures, Data protection.

–         Identify the transactions monitoring of the customer and supplier.

–         Identify if the gold is sourced responsibly in regard to the OECD guidelines, not financing any illegal activity and export procedures complies with local laws and regulations.

–         Identify that the transaction is not being used as an instrument for money laundering or terrorism financing.

–         Identify of the customers and the supplier’s due diligence process for another layer of checks.

–         Identify if there is any Politically Exposed Person in the transaction.

–         Keep record of the relevant supporting documents for at least 5 years.

Sources:

Federal Decree-law No. (20) of 2018 ON ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COMBATING THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM AND FINANCING OF ILLEGAL ORGANISATIONS

Cabinet Decision No. (10) of 2019 CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTING REGULATION OF DECREE LAW NO. (20) OF 2018 ON ANTI- MONEY LAUNDERING AND COMBATING THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM AND ILLEGAL ORGANISATIONS

Guidance for licensed financial institutions providing services to the real estate and the precious metals and stones sectors

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict- Affected and High-Risk Areas 

FATF UAE Mutual Evaluation Report April 2020

About the Author:

Asif Sooltangos is a Director and the General Counsel of Gold Hive Trading LLC, a licensed precious metals and stones trading company in UAE. He advises on DPMS compliance in regard to their AML/CFT and their responsible sourcing obligations. He also advises on cross-border precious metals and stones deals.

He may be contacted at asif@goldhivellc.com.

Visit our website at www.goldhivellc.com for more information on the company, our products and our services.

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Glimpse into the AML/CFT Obligations of DPMS in the UAE

A Dealer in Precious Metals and Precious Stones (DPMS) may be considered as a natural or legal person, who engages, as a regular component of their business activities in the production and/or trade of Precious Metals and Stones (PMS) which include:

  • Extraction, Refining, Cutting, Polishing or fabrication;
  • Import and Export;
  • Purchase and Sale;
  • Barter, Exchange or transfer of ownership;
  • Loan or lease arrangements;
  • Possession (for example – warehousing, part of a fiduciary, safekeeping etc.).

Dealers in Precious Metals and Precious Stones (DPMS) are identified under UAE law[1] as Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions (DNFBPs) when they carry out a single transaction or several transactions, interrelated in appearance, which value is equal to or greater than AED 55,000.

The legal framework requires for DPMS which qualify as DNFBPs to fulfill a number of obligations in regard to such transactions, namely:

  • To Identify and Assess ML/FT risks
  • To have policies and procedures in place to mitigate the identified ML/TF risks
  • Maintain risk-based customer due-diligence
  • Identifying and reporting suspicious transactions
  • Having the proper governance framework (Appointing a compliance officer and having in place staff screening and training)
  • Keeping proper records
  • Complying with the directives of the Competent Authorities of the State in relation to the United Nations Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the Charter of the UN and Cabinet decision No.20 of 2019 [2].

The UAE Ministry of Economy has reminded DPMS which qualify as DNFBPs, through a number of Circulars (No.1 of 2021, No2. Of 2021, No.3 of 2021 and No. 4 of 202) and then under Circular No.5 of 2021, to register themselves on the goAML[3] portal under penalty which may include, but not limited to, a financial penalty of AED 50,000 and no more than AED 5,000,000 for each violation. This registration is for the relevant persons to report all Suspicious Transaction Reports (“STRs”) to the Financial Intelligence Unit using the goAML portal.

The UAE Ministry of Economy has taken a step further with a Circular[4] addressed to DPMS in regard to their due diligence and reporting requirements in the goAML portal. The circular identifies three categories of transactions which DPMS should register on the newly created Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones Report (DPMSR) on the goAML platform with an obligation to keep records of all documents and information related to these transactions for a period of 5 years:

Transactions in cash equal to or exceeding AED 55,000 with resident individuals. Whereby the DPMS should obtain the Emirates ID or Passport copy of the individual and register the transaction on the FIU’s goAML platform using the DPMSR.
Transactions in cash equal to or exceeding AED 55,000 with non-resident individuals. Whereby the DPMS should obtain the ID or Passport copy of the individual and register the transaction on the FIU’s goAML platform using the DPMSR.
Transactions in cash or through wire transfer equal to or exceeding AED 55,000 with entities/companies. Whereby the DPMS should obtain the trade license, Emirates ID or ID or Passport copy of the person representing the company and register the transaction on the FIU’s goAML platform using the DPMSR.
Footnote:

[1] Cabinet Decision No. (10) of 2019 Concerning the Implementing Regulation of Decree Law No. (20) of 2018 On Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations.

[2] Cabinet Decision No. (20) of 2019 Regarding Terrorism Lists Regulation and Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions On the Suppression and Combating of Terrorism, Terrorists Financing & Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Related Resolutions

[3] The goAML application is a fully integrated software solution developed specifically for use by Financial Intelligence Units (FIU’s) and is one of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime strategic responses to financial crime, including money-laundering and terrorist financing.

[4] Circular Number: 08/AML/2021 Date: 02 June 2021

About the Author:

Asif Sooltangos is a Director and the General Counsel of Gold Hive Trading LLC (www.goldhivellc.com), a licensed precious metals and stones trading company in UAE. He advises on DPMS compliance in regard to their AML/CFT and their responsible sourcing obligations. He also advises on cross-border precious metals and stones deals.

He may be contacted at asif@goldhivellc.com

Sources:

Federal Decree-law No. (20) of 2018 ON ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COMBATING THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM AND FINANCING OF ILLEGAL ORGANISATIONS

Cabinet Decision No. (10) of 2019 CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTING REGULATION OF DECREE LAW NO. (20) OF 2018 ON ANTI- MONEY LAUNDERING AND COMBATING THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM AND ILLEGAL ORGANISATIONS

Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations Guidelines for Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions Supplemental Guidance for Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones

UAE Ministry of Economy Circular No. 5/2021 Dated 3/03/2021

UAE Ministry of Economy Circular 08/AML/2021

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/global-it-products/goaml.html

https://www.moec.gov.ae/en/registering-companies-in-goaml