Detained in Dubai, Summer 2016 Updates: Interpol, Extradition, Financial Crime, Cybercrime, Membersh
The drop in oil prices has negatively affected the economy of the United Arab Emirates significantly. Companies are freezing salaries, laying off workers, and even going bankrupt. Many expats are choosing to leave the UAE for better opportunities at home; sometimes leaving behind unpaid bills and outstanding debts. Due to the continuing economic slump, over the last quarter we have seen the UAE intensify its pursuit of financial cases through increasingly aggressive tactics; including harassment by debt collection agencies, quickly imposed travel bans against debtors, and prosecution for unpaid utility bills. Security procedures in the UAE have also become more prevalent, with repercussions for both visitors and residents. In the last quarter, we have noted the following: Pursuit of Financial Cases We have seen a marked increase in the number of cases involving bounced cheques and loan defaults. This is partially because more people actually are facing financial difficulties, and partially because the UAE is initiating cases with greater fervour. The UAE is increasingly using Interpol, essentially, as an instrument to pressure debtors into remitting payments, to either have their names removed from the Interpol database, or to avoid being issued with a Red Notice, which restricts their ability to travel. Detained in Dubai has submitted more requests to have clients removed from Interpol in the past few months than ever before. We have been commissioned to provide expert testimony in four extradition cases, three of which were for clients in the UK, and one in Spain. Heightened Security We have also seen an unusually high number of residency visa requests rejected by the UAE without explanation, possibly due to tightening of security precautions in the country. Amidst what appears to be increasing security concerns, it has become standard for tourists and resident expats to face police checks upon arrival or prior to departure to determine whether or not there may be any outstanding legal cases against them. We strongly encourage anyone intending to travel to or from the UAE to preemptively undergo a check before embarking. Culture Clash Detained in Dubai dealt with a number of holiday makers who were arrested over the last quarter for alcohol related charges; one was accused of biting a police officer. 2 British nationals were accused of abusive behaviour towards airport authorities. It is worth reiterating that the purchase and consumption of alcohol in the UAE is strictly regulated, and public drunkenness is still a criminal offence. It must also be remembered that the norms and customs of the UAE differ from those of Western countries in many respects, and any interaction with locals, particularly governmental authorities, security personnel, and other staff people, should always be as polite and cordial as possible. New Laws The new cybercrime laws and charity fundraising restrictions have come under greater scrutiny following the case of Scott Richards; calling into question the practical feasibility of standardising a norm of enforcement for laws that are deliberately vague and obtuse. The Richards case, and the subsequent dismissal of all charges, highlights yet again just how arbitrary UAE law enforcement can be. While we have recently seen talk in the UAE of reforms to the bankruptcy laws, until now, debt remains criminalised, and the new laws are expected to only impact businesses, not individuals grappling with personal debts. As per usual, the new laws will not be applied retroactively. Labour Disputes Possibly reflective of the ongoing economic difficulties, we have noted that employment disputes are also becoming more frequent with employers sometimes failing to cancel visas or pay the final salary instalments. Proponence Detained in Dubai will launch the Proponence Membership Program this November, in response to the systematic shortcomings of the UAE criminal justice system, to provide a secure resource for both emergency and ongoing support to members if or when they encounter legal troubles in the Emirates.