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  • Sarah Townsend, Arabian Business

Revealed: avoid potential arrest in the UAE with simple police check

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

A UK charity has urged expats to arrange a criminal check on themselves before returning to the UAE, to avoid being arrested for an offense of which they were unaware.

Detained in Dubai recommends conducting a “standard police check” in advance of travel, especially if you have reason to suspect there could be a complaint against you.

Radha Stirling, the charity’s founder and chief executive, told Arabian Business that risk of detention for alleged crimes of which they know nothing has become “a common issue” both for former expats visiting the UAE and current expats returning from a trip abroad.

“We are seeing more and more cases like this, involving anything from employment disputes, road rage, investment issues and other business disputes,” she said.

She cited a recent instance in which one of her clients was almost run over at a petrol station. When they complained to the perpetrator, the perpetrator took a picture of the client’s number-plate and yelled at them.

The client returned to the UK shortly after for a few months holiday. They were about to return to the UAE to accept a new job offer but decided to check their status in advance. “It emerged that the person who almost run me over had made a complaint to the police that I had made a rude gesture at me, even though I hadn’t,” the client said.

“Fortunately, I checked in advance and avoided the usual arrest now, ask questions later routine and was able to resolve everything before travelling.”

Another expat was less fortunate, said Stirling. An Emirati had invested in their business and become a shareholder but later decided he wanted to invest elsewhere and asked for his money back. The business owner told them this was not possible under the agreed terms of investment.

On returning to the UAE from a trip some time afterwards, the business owner was arrested. He discovered that the investor had filed a police case claiming he had been defrauded. The case is currently pending in the UAE courts.

Another common occurrence is expats leaving the country for good and later discovering their bank has filed a claim against them for unpaid interest about which they had not previously been informed.

However, arranging a police check is not always straightforward as it involves going down to the local police station and checking the files.

To do this from abroad, it is necessary to hire a local “advocate” – a criminal lawyer based in the country – to go to the police station on your behalf. The cost depends on the law firm but is usually around £1,000 ($1,492) and is time-consuming, Stirling said.

However, she added: “The small cost of engaging a police check is certainly nothing compared to the possible legal costs that would arise if that person were arrested on their return, not to mention the incredible stress and personal sacrifice that can be avoided.

“An arrest on arrival can mean a loss of employment, damage to reputation and a lengthy clearing process. “So if someone has an inkling that they might have a problem, it is very prudent to run a check.”

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