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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

Spotlight on Dubai Debt

2015 has brought more debt victims to our doors than any other year save for the crash in 2009 that left countless foreign residents fleeing Dubai, leaving their properties and vehicles behind rather than facing prison.

The banks in Dubai have long been offering credit, loans and mortgages to foreign nationals often in exchange for cheques that can be presented as security. If the cheque bounces, the debtor will be sentenced to time in prison to a maximum of 3 years per cheque.

In response to a growing number of fleeing debtors, banks such as Emirates NBD, ADCB and others have been increasing their recovery efforts by employing international debt collectors and enforcers, such as "Fintrestle", "TrustDC" (neither of which have operational websites) and amongst others, Coyle White Devine ( in the UK. Recently, despite Fintrestle's extensive efforts to resolve an agreement, the bank advised that Fintrestle had never been given any authority to represent them, despite Fintrestle having full private details of the bank's customer. We therefore advise customers demand that any third party claiming to represent a bank, should insist upon receiving confirmation of representation before entertaining any communication.

Most debt collectors (and the primary institution) have authorised the use of threats, intimidation and harassment in order to recover their debts. These have included threats of using the Interpol Red Notice database to recover funds, harassment and one's place of work, harassment of family members and reportedly, threats of harm.

In our experience, most debtors have acted in good faith and genuinely seek to reach a manageable resolution. Threats simply cause undue stress and do not change the situation and the debtor's ability to pay. In the UAE, threats of immediately police cases, prosecution and imprisonment are standard. Outside of the UAE, the banks resort to other tactics.

We assist clients by trying to resolve with the institutions a reasonable and achievable agreement. In some cases, this involves the banks making a concession and agreeing on a lump sum payout and in other cases, extending a longer duration for a structured payment plan. It is usually essential to have third parties represent a customer in negotiations as this reduces the intimidation element of the process. Intimidation and threats can only work where the debtor has the capability to pay the demanded amount but simply chooses not to. In most cases, this is simply not the case and where it is not, the customer often ends up paying large sums of money to legal representatives for advice and defence, that could have been used to repay the debt. This is not beneficial to the institution and nor is it beneficial to the customer.

Recently, we interviewed a British National who had been under extreme stress from the harassment of several debt collectors (for the same institution) who said to us "If they don't accept what is a very reasonable offer and wish to push the matter to Court, I will have to employ lawyers and even if they bankrupt me, they will end up with half of what they are claiming. Where is the sense in this?".

Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai states "There is always risk involved when a bank lends money to an individual. This is why the interest rates are high and why insurance companies offer coverage. They are asking a customer to gamble that they will be able to make these payments in the future. The bank is also gambling this fact. No one can predict unforeseeable changes in circumstances that are beyond their control, such as a downturn in the economy, a loss of employment or serious injury or illness. When a customer experiences such a hardship in life, the banks would benefit from taking a more amicable approach to recovery. I would also encourage banks to cease the harassment of customers at their place of work. If a customer loses their employment as a result of harassment, the bank will not succeed in recovery".

The National News published an article this month that confirmed the total amount of loans to UAE residents amounted to over Dh330 billion (a 7.5% jump from 2014):

The increase in loans would explain the increase in debt cases that we have received this year. We continue to protect individuals from collection harassment and to resolve their situations as quickly as possible.

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