Legal Framework

Article 121 of the UAE Constitution enabled the Federation to create Financial Free Zones in the Emirates, and most importantly, to exclude the application of certain Federal laws in these Financial Free Zones. A number of laws created the DIFC and the necessary centre bodies, which include the DFSA. These laws set out the objectives, powers and functions of the centre bodies. They also contain important exemptions and prohibitions in the DIFC.

Federal Law No. 8 of 2004 (English)

Federal Law No. 8 of 2004 on “Financial Free Zones in the United Arab Emirates” (the Financial Free Zone Law) mainly:

  • Allows for the creation of a Financial Free Zone in any Emirate of the UAE, by a Federal Decree
  • Exempts the Financial Free Zones and the Financial Activities from all Federal civil and commercial laws
  • Confirms the application of Federal criminal laws in the Financial Free Zones, including  Federal Laws on Anti-Money Laundering
  • Prohibits DIFC authorised firms from dealing in “deposit taking from the State’s markets and from dealing in the UAE Dirham”
  • Restricts DIFC authorised insurers’ dealings in the State to carrying out re-insurance activities

The disapplication of Federal laws means that the DIFC has its own regulatory and legal framework.

Cabinet Resolution No. 28 of 2007 (English*/Arabic)

Cabinet Resolution No. 28 of 2007 on “Implementing Federal Law No. 8 of of 2004 on Financial Free Zones” further detailed certain provisions of the Financial Free Zones Law.

Federal Decree No. 35 of 2004 (English)

Federal Decree No. 35 of 2004 created the DIFC as a Financial Free Zone in Dubai (the DIFC Law). The Federal Cabinet has also made two Cabinet Resolutions that set out the geographic boundaries of the DIFC.

Dubai Law No. 5 of 2021 (English)

Dubai Law No. 9 of 2004 on “The Establishment of the Dubai International Financial Centre” acknowledges the creation of the DIFC and:

  • Recognises the financial and administrative independence of the DIFC
  • Creates the DIFC centre bodies, which include the DFSA
  • Provides for the DFSA to operate independently from other DIFC centre bodies
  • Exempts the DIFC from Dubai laws and regulations, under certain conditions.

DIFC Law No. 1 of 2004 (English)

DIFC Law No. 1 of 2004 or the “Regulatory Law 2004” is the cornerstone of the DFSA’s regulatory powers, functions and objectives and:

  • Gives the DFSA the power to make Rules
  • Sets out the powers and functions of the Board and the Chief Executive
  • Establishes the Financial Markets Tribunal
  • Sets out the criteria and process for authorising firms and individuals
  • Sets out the powers for supervising and investigating Persons as well as the enforcement of DFSA-administered legislations
  • Gives the DFSA the power to impose restrictions, suspensions and sanctions, including financial penalties
  • Provides for the registration of Auditors and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBP)
  • Sets out the decision making process that the DFSA must follow to issue certain types of decisions

The law establishing the DIFC Court can be found here.
A database of DIFC laws can be found here.

*a DFSA translation.
1a consolidated DFSA translation.

For better web experience, please use the website in portrait mode