The arrest of a British Woman in Italy over an Interpol Red Notice for debt has caused concern amongst the international business community.
The outcome of the woman’s case, for a debt of approx. €15,000 relating to a security cheque is of interest to anyone with investments or loans in the UAE. Dubai banks are using Interpol Red Notices to suit their own interests, while individuals suffer disproportionately.
The UAE has decriminalised security cheque bouncing for its nationals who have agreed to participate in loan forgiveness/repayment programmes. However, foreign nationals still face criminal charges for bounced security cheques regardless of the reason for the insufficient funds. In turn, foreign nationals can become victims of international blacklisting via Interpol Red Notices.
This practice has become widespread in recent times. Another British woman, who declined to be identified, lost her job working as cabin crew for an airline after her US visa was withdrawn when it was found she had a red notice against her name. Other Britons have been detained over small car loan security cheques.
Interpol Notices can lead to loss of employment and visa status, resulting in restricted travel and business activities across the globe even though the notice has been submitted against Interpol’s own rules.
In 2014 Interpol stated that, “A dedicated working group has also been established to review [Interpol's] rules and their implementation… The question of under what circumstances red notices should be issued for unfunded cheques will be examined by the working group” but the notices are still being abused.
Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai says in a statement, “Banks should never be able to use Interpol in this manner. It makes a mockery of the whole international police system. Countries who are well versed in these abuses, tend to ignore the Interpol notices but each one still wastes time.”
Stirling continues, “Debtors should not feel that they are at risk of detention when traveling in Europe, Asia and the Americas where debt is considered a civil matter, not criminal. We are constantly checking the Interpol status of individuals who may be at risk and the arrest of the British woman in Italy has lead to increased panic worldwide.”
Clearly Interpol Red Notices are being abused by Dubai banks and Interpol continues to allow it.
An unnamed British woman is still under house arrest in a hotel in Italy while she awaits the Italian authority’s decision on her case. Court proceedings were initiated against her due to an Interpol Notice relating to a €15,000 debt to a Dubai bank.
The woman has been bailed and ordered to remain at a Rome based hotel which she must fund at her own cost. Italian authorities will now decide whether to allow a formal extradition trial that would prove stressful and costly to the woman.
Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai is quoted in a statement, “in order for a country to agree to an extradition request, the alleged crime must be a crime in both countries to be successful. In cases related to debt, the requested country will deny the request once they have discovered it is not a crime.” This is the case in this instance, as debt is not a criminal offence in Italy.
Many countries treat Interpol Notices as provisional arrest warrants and automatically detain suspects pending judicial process. Victims of Interpol abuse may have the ability to claim against authorities for wrongful detention.
Stirling continues: "the number of notices that we deal with has increased". Over the past two years, we have dealt with approximately one debt-related case per month and one case that is business related or a civil/private dispute."
Even once disproved, the accusations involved in these cases can cause irreparable damage to an individual’s or company’s reputation and affect future travel plans.