The media has published numerous cases of how the UAE has been abusing its authority and judicial system against foreigners for years. We even have a number of documentaries and information available online showing the countless professional foreigners who have been jailed or mistreated because it has been to the advantage of a local, so why on earth are we as a group, going back for more? Is it hope? Greed? Or is it perhaps the "it won't happen to me" mentality? Perhaps we are lured by the welcoming hospitality of the people of the Gulf. We dine with them, go on holidays with them and we feel (and are even told) that we are "family".
There is no doubt about it... The UAE has a big marketing budget and provide what seem to be wonderful opportunities for expats and it can seem like an adventure.
We also generally have a perception that the people in the Gulf are obscenely rich and can help propel us to their millionaire status. Sometimes this is true and great when it is. The problem is that it is absolutely random as to whether one will end up better off, or in jail.
It is clear that the Emiratis have a very obvious ability to manipulate the legal system to their advantage. It is almost encouraged and can easily raise someone's status within their social circles when they can exert influence over the system, and the nature of this social norm is flowing down from the top of their government.
In the case of Haddad, a Londoner, he was pressured to accept an unreasonably low offer to buy his share in a business; he refused. Emiratis don't like to hear a "no" from someone lower in the pecking order and so will find it gratifying to "outsmart" us.
In this case, the prominent family of Al Rastamani decided to do exactly that. Haddad's disgruntled business partner outright stole the company in retaliation, using every royal connection at her disposal. She arranged for him to be locked out of his office building even though he was the legal chairman and joint partner. She threatened via SMS that she would "put him in jail (for nothing)" and he was forced to flee. Then to administer the theft of the company, she employed a prominent lawyer, Habib Al Mulla (who is also friends with the Ruler of Dubai).
Al Mulla appeared in 21 court hearings in Dubai pretending that he had the authority to represent Haddad; Even worse than that, he was representing both parties!! The entire sham was designed so that the lawyer could confess on behalf of his client to crimes, thus rendering him unable to ever return to Dubai safely. Imagine that Al Mulla did not even need a Power of Attorney in Court. Did the Judge not see it as suspicious? Of course he did but he knows that Al Mulla is a friend of the Ruler. Rostamani then gifted their jointly owned company assets to the Ruler of Dubai's first cousin! Fortunately, this blatant abuse of the judiciary is finally being disclosed and Baker & McKenzie should frankly, cut ties with Habib Al Mulla whose misconduct is a massive black mark on their international reputation as the second largest law firm in the world. I will be interested to hear their response.
Though this case is more flagrant than most, and involves hundreds of millions of pounds; the scenario is not unique. This happens frequently and we are kept busy with all levels of this type of abuse. We have had cases where people have been wrongfully jailed for years before finally being released. Why were they jailed? Usually so that the local involved can benefit financially or in some cases, use the expat as a scapegoat for their own wrongdoing. This abuse of foreigners is at the lower levels too, robbing retirees of their villa investments or even Landlords causing Tenants to be imprisoned. It sounds farfetched but we have dealt with three cases this past month alone! It is not an isolated phenomenon but somehow, we seem to be in denial about it and keep returning for more.
It doesn't help that the Embassies don't even report these kinds of abuses on their travel advisory website. The UK Embassy deals with judicial abuse cases more than true incidents, yet it is unreported. Next time the Queen is entertaining the UAE royals with their mutual passion for horse racing, perhaps she could raise this issue?
The UK is turning a blind eye to these serious abuses of justice. Their standard response being "we can not get involved in another country's legal system". Ok, fair enough but the Embassy should be warning their citizens that the country's judiciary is corrupt and foreigners are at serious risk of being wrongfully jailed.
Haddad was actually very fortunate to have left the UAE before his business partner fabricated criminal allegations that would have seen him imprisoned. Others however, have not been so lucky.
We are assisting Haddad in his quest for justice and are preparing to open several cases in the UAE, including against the Dubai Public Prosecution. Further, Haddad is exploring localised UK legal actions and possibly against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for allowing this case to breach their Treaty with the UAE, without consequence.
This example of judicial abuse will be of great interest to the public, who are wondering how Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid will deal with it. With Al Mulla being his close friend, the Rostamani family being close friends and the beneficiary being his first cousin, how will he decide to resolve this? If it is not already in his sphere of thought, it will be soon. The legal case is fully evidenced and there can be absolutely no doubt of the corruption. For Dubai to ever be taken seriously, he will need to respond effectively and make a decision as to whether to punish those involved or support them. Whatever he decides, there will be consequences.
What we need to do though, is wake up and smell the coffee. We are allowing the UAE to treat foreigners poorly. We are allowing them to blatantly steal our money, our businesses, our homes. They are even using our stolen money to buy up our real estate in London. If we keep returning to invest in Dubai while the country is all smoke and mirrors, we are inviting them to steal from us. One can't help but think that they are sitting around coffee tables with their friends, mocking our trusting instinct and faith. This is what fraudsters, con men, and romance scammers play on and frankly, Dubai is essentially becoming one giant fraud. It is one of the riskiest places to do business or invest in, and foreign investors should know that not only are the risking their money, they are risking their freedom.
There is nothing foreign investors can do to mitigate their risks in Dubai and therefore, all investment should cease until the government addresses this very real problem. The ruler needs to offer restitution to Haddad and resolve this case. Silence is akin to supporting corruption. For investment to become a possibility again, the ruler will need to install a judicial watchdog with a zero corruption policy. People need to be able to report any incidents of corruption for the country to be taken seriously again.