Inmates Hunger Strike over Financial Crime Laws
38 year old Irishman, Mr Christopher Renehan is leading up to 70 Dubai inmates into a hunger stroke to protest against bounced cheque and financial crime laws in the UAE, despite being discouraged by UAE authorities and the British Embassy to proceed with the protest. Those on strike have been advised that if they write a joint letter of protest, it will be considered a crime against the government, as reports Martin Croucher of The National.
Emirates 24/7 report the Emirate of Sharjah’s police force have introduced an initiative to keep bounced cheque cases out of Court. We encourage the rest of the emirates enforcement services to follow suit.
It is time the UAE reviewed financial laws as in modern life, they are now being misused and misapplied. Cheques are now being written to cover all aspects of daily life in the UAE (rental agreements, mortgages and business activities). If a resident is granted a mortgage for example, he writes a cheque to the bank for the entire value of the property. If he defaults of a few payments, the bank has the power to imprison him for three years, per cheque. It is time this practice of criminalising debt is reviewed and turned into a civil offence, in line with first world standards.
Deliberately writing a cheque knowing it will be dishonoured in the UK can be considered criminal where It is to obtain property or services by deception or can be considered an act of fraud. If one writes a cheque however, not realising it will bounce, they can still be liable for either civil debt recovery action or the return of any property purchased with a cheque.
This is different to the UAE law where simply signing a cheque (no matter what) that later bounces is 100% criminal. Further, cheques are used for “security” and produced as a sign of good faith in a mortgage or other business arrangement. They can then be presented in the event of any debt or financial default (or any other reason). This practice is not common in other jurisdictions.
The scenario could be that you write a cheque to your landlord for 1 whole year’s rent (the entire duration of the lease). You then lose your job and the landlord presents the cheque knowing it will bounce. You then go to jail even though there was never any intention to commit fraud and nor any intention to obtain goods or services through deception.
Another common scenario is where an employee signs a cheque as part of their remit. The company then defaults on it, but the employee is imprisoned because it is their signature on the cheque. You can see how this law is open to misuse, when the circumstances of the cheque are not taking into account.
We trust the hunger strike lead by Christopher goes a long way to raise awareness of the issues, ultimately leading to judicial reform.