Zain is a regulatory attorney who currently leads the firm’s Tax and International Trade Law service lines. His core expertise lies in international trade law, GCC tax law, corporate regulatory matters, and litigation, where he regularly provides legal and strategic advice to both private sector clients and public sector institutions in the GCC.

Drawing on his 15+ years of experience in these disciplines, Zain advises various major clients and multinationals on a range of issues, including trade law, tax law (such as income tax, excise tax, transfer pricing rules, zakat, withholding tax, economic substance), corporate and tax structuring, and related litigation.

Zain is also an award-winning author and recently published a book titled ‘Global Trade Law in the Middle East: Essential Principles for the Gulf States’. First of its kind, the book offers to present concise and practical guidance on the international trade law framework of the GCC.

Prior to joining Hourani & Partners, Zain served as a senior member of Ernst & Young’s Global Trade advisory in Dubai. Prior to this, he served in senior legal positions as head of legal in government tax and trade authorities.

  • International Trade Law, Customs Law, WTO trade remedies, and related advisory
  • Tax Law (Corporate Tax, Withholding Tax, Excise Tax, ESR, transfer pricing etc.)
  • Tax efficiency structuring and Corporate Structuring and Regulatory
  • Cross border tax, trade and supply agreement disputes
  • Export Controls & Sanctions
  • Related litigation

Zain’s experience includes:

  • Advised a well-established Saudi conglomerate on the most corporate and tax efficient structure regarding the sale of business assets and real estate which required careful consideration to avoid double payment of real estate transaction tax, and value added tax.
  • Advised a leading engineering company on group tax structuring across the GCC in connection with corporate income tax, transfer pricing, withholding tax, zakat, capital gains and VAT, with advice spanning across 6 jurisdictions.
  • Advised a major British multi-national company in relation to compliance with the new and technical laws and regulations concerning imports and exports of its product from the UAE to other GCC countries.
  • Advised a UK multi-national FMCG client that required litigation services in Saudi Arabia in connection with potential adverse action from the Saudi customs authority which included advising on customs duty exemptions based on the GCC and World Trade Organization rules of origin.
  • Successfully advised major Swedish furniture company on customs valuation and royalties dispute with GCC tax authority which escalated to World Customs Organization.
  • Provision of advice for large GCC and MENA clients on corporate structure set ups and efficient tax planning as part of transactions in various industries including F&B, Banking, Financial Services, Telecommunications and Education as well as assisting large national Sovereign Wealth Funds.
  • Advised a major GCC country distributor on transfer pricing regulations and related party risks, including aspects on effective control via business, debt and management, legality and tax implications interest loan advancing, including withholding tax implications on payments between related/affiliated entities.
  • Advised a US multi-national conglomerate on a matter that overlapped on two highly technical and separate legal aspects of World Trade Organization and GCC treaty rules on customs valuation, as well as OECD and local UAE and KSA rules on tax and transfer pricing.
  • Advised a UAE client in a litigation matter for cancellation of contract for the purchase of goods from a UK and US sanctioned Russian enterprise.
  • Regularly advise one of the world’s largest accounting firms in advising its clients on the tax law, global trade, customs law regimes in the GCC.
  • Provided advice to major multi-national clients in two separate transfer pricing tax law disputes in Saudi Arabia, in which our clients were successful on both counts.
  • Represented multi-national client in nine separate VAT law disputes, in which our clients were successful in 7.
  • Conducted comprehensive analysis to optimize supply chain structure for trade, customs and tax efficiency, mitigating risks and ensuring a viable agreement for our client. Identified significant potential liabilities overlooked by supplier’s proposal, offering alternative models to empower client in negotiations and secure a more favorable, risk-mitigated deal.
  • Advised a leading engineering company on group tax structuring across the GCC in connection with corporate income tax, transfer pricing, withholding tax, zakat, capital gains and VAT.


  • Currently completing Doctor of Laws in WTO Customs Valuation and Transfer Pricing law, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Advanced Professional Certificate in International Taxation (IBFD)
  • LLM, Dispute Resolution Law (distinction), University of Missouri, USA
  • LLM, International Trade Law (Dean’s gold medallist cum laude), University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • LLB (Dean’s gold medallist), University of the Western Cape, South Africa


  • Attorney of the Supreme Court of South Africa
  • Certified Mediator of the Supreme Court of Missouri, USA
  • Dubai Legal Affairs Department, UAE


  • International Tax Specialists Group
  • International Fiscal Association (UAE)
  • Afrikaans
  • English