Russian oligarchs flocking to Dubai as safe haven from sanctions
Sanctions and divestment are meant to put pressure on Russian oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich, pictured here cheering on England's Chelsea soccer club, which he owns, on May 21, 2017, in London. - BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS

Russian oligarchs are flocking to sanction-free Dubai as the U.S., U.K. and European Union crack down.

Roman Abramovich and other Kremlin-linked billionaires are trying to move their assets to the United Arab Emirates to avoid freezes placed on their money by NATO members in response to the Ukraine invasion, and Western officials have been surprised the Gulf state has maintained its close ties to Russia in the weeks since, reported Bloomberg.

“In Dubai there’s an old saying that goes: When the region does well, we do well, but when there’s a crisis, we do really well,” said Chirag Shah, founder of the consultancy 1 International FinCentre Associates.

Direct flights from Moscow are still landing, and the money that's also flowing into Dubai has raised concerns at the U.S. Treasury Department that the Chinese payment system CIPS could be used to route dirty money to the UAE to get around sanctions.

Dubai already draws tens of thousands of Russian tourists each month, but the city-state has seen a 40-percent jump in demand from Russians to buy property, which is a popular way for them to obtain a residence visa -- which requires the purchase of real estate worth about $1.5 million or by opening a company there.

“If we talk in absolute numbers about UAE residency, the demand has increased by 100 percent” from Russians, said Polina Kuleshova from residency and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners.