Linklaters advises Etisalat on new UAE blockchain-based platform to help financial institutions combat fraud and invoice duplication

Linklaters advised Etisalat Group, one of the world’s leading telecom groups in emerging markets, on contractual and compliance elements related to their roll-out of a game-changing platform in the trade finance space, UAE Trade Connect (UTC). The recently launched blockchain-based trade finance platform uses distributed ledger technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to inspect trade invoices and other trade related documents to scan for fraudulent and suspicious transactions. Results are posted on a private permissioned blockchain between participant banks, so that a permanent record is created of financed trades, preventing duplicate financing while also preserving data secrecy.

The initial participants in UTC are seven of the leading UAE banks, which along with the Central Bank of the UAE also comprise the steering committee for UTC. While UTC currently only offers fraud detection based on trade invoices, it is expected to scale up to eventually also handle bills of lading, letters of credit and other documents, which will involve onboarding shipping companies, ports, customs authorities and governments.

The transaction involved a truly cross-practice team from Linklaters, with TMT partner Adrian Fisher and TMT lawyers Clare Harris and Eunice Lee, from the firm’s regional technology practice, supported by corporate partner Nicholas Edwards, based in the firm’s Abu Dhabi office and counsel Reem Al Sayegh providing financial regulatory advice based in Dubai.

Asia Head of TMT, Adrian Fisher, commented:

“We are honoured to have worked with Etisalat in driving the launch of UTC. Blockchain and disruptive technologies such as AI and machine learning continue to pave the way for trade finance transformation and security. The roll-out of UTC represents a significant step forward in driving a more robust digital economy in the UAE.”

Middle East Head of Corporate, Nicholas Edwards, commented:

“The establishment of UTC represents a milestone in the financial sector in the UAE, demonstrating the region’s commitment to adopting innovative technological solutions to increase efficiency and enable future economic growth. It was a pleasure working with Etisalat and UTC on this project.”

Zulqarnain Javaid, CEO of UTC, remarked:

“We are thankful for the diligence and insight from Linklaters in the legal workstream of UTC’s platform launch. This marks the start of our commercial operations in the blockchain space, and represents a unique solution to mitigate long-standing risks inherent to trade finance.”