The Bank of Nova Scotia said yesterday it has been approved to set up independent operations in Dubai’s financial district, making it the first Canadian bank to do so.

The licensing clearance from the Dubai International Financial Center allows the bank’s ScotiaMocatta division to open an independent branch in one of the Middle East’s hubs for international finance.

ScotiaMocatta has operated in Dubai since 1998 through the National Bank of Dubai to provide financial services to gold tra­ders, jewellers and others.

The move comes as debt-burdened Dubai struggles to retain its prominence as a centre for Middle East investors and traders.

Pramod Mohan, a senior executive at Scotiabank’s Dubai branch, said the bank recognized the importance of establishing a stand-alone presence in the region as the precious metals market in the Middle East continues to grow.