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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

Abusive HSBC Red Notice against British national revoked by Interpol

When British citizen Robert Urwin was stopped in the Ukraine on an Interpol Red Notice, he thought it had to be a mistake. Subsequently learning that the Interpol listing had to do with a bounced cheque in Dubai twelve years earlier, Urwin was sure that there was a misunderstanding. He had left the UAE in good standing, with no debts and no payments pending on his bank account. The cheque in question turned out to be for an uncharacteristically large sum of money, and it had been written out to someone he did not know and submitted to the bank well after Urwin had already left the UAE. This was an obvious forgery; but over one year since his initial detention by the Ukraine, and after enduring the trauma and expense of extradition hearings which determined he would not be deported to the Emirates, Robert Urwin remains stranded.

Ukraine had denied extradition over the Red Notice (filed by the UAE at the request of international bank HSBC), but refused to allow him to travel as long as his name remained on the Interpol database. Following the court’s decision not to deport him, Uriwn was freed on bail, forced to fend for himself in a foreign country with no prospect of ever being allowed to leave.

“Robert’s family contacted us soon after he was detained by Ukrainian authorities,” explained Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and an international lawyer leading calls for reforms in the Interpol system. “We immediately appealed against the Red Notice and engaged with the FCO to seek urgent intervention. When the court ruled against extradition, Robert, his family, and all of us thought his ordeal was over. Flights were booked, and everyone was looking forward to welcoming him home. But Ukrainian authorities stopped him again, saying that he could not exit the country as long as the Red Notice remained active on Interpol. At this point we appealed to HSBC and the UAE directly, and Robert’s MP, Emma Lewell-Buck became involved, writing to the FCO, the British Embassy in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK.”

"Once a Red Notice has been fulfilled," Stirling said, "it should be removed according to Interpol’s own rules. Robert had been detained, he had undergone extradition proceedings, and a court decision had been rendered negating the request to extradite,”

She said, “That should have been the end of it. But HSBC and the Emirates insisted on keeping the Notice, even sending additional information to the Ukraine after the trial which, unbeknownst to us at the time, resulted in an arrest warrant being issued against Robert. He is now at imminent risk of being re-arrested and forced to undergo extradition hearings all over again for the same issue.

“This week we were informed that our appeal against the Red Notice was accepted, and Interpol has deemed the UAE-HSBC request to extradite Robert as an abuse of the international policing organisation’s data collection system. The Red Notice has been deleted, and Robert’s name has been removed from Interpol. Yet, an arrest warrant is still active against him to enforce an extradition request which Interpol has itself acknowledged to be wrongful, and which has been purged from their database.”

Ukranian jail where Robert Urwin was jailed

Stirling and Lewell-Buck, Urwin’s MP, have written to the FCO urging the government to request Ukraine to revoke the arrest warrant and allow Urwin to return to the UK unhindered.

“Robert is an elderly man who has lost over a year with his family; he has suffered an emotional rollercoaster over the past several months, been treated like a criminal, arbitrarily detained, denied his freedom of movement, endured the indignity of false accusations, and incurred significant financial expense; all because of an unjustified Interpol listing that should have never been issued,” Stirling said.

“The UAE has become a habitual abuser of the Interpol system; misusing it as an instrument for debt collection and extortion, and Interpol has utterly failed to implement basic measures to prevent the issuance of illegitimate Red Notices,” she explained, “For its part, HSBC chose to utilise the UAE’s manipulation of Interpol for its own ends, refusing to withdraw the Notice against Robert, even after the Ukrainian court ruled it negligible. HSBC used Interpol to prolong Robert’s arbitrary detention and deny him his legal human right to free movement, and attempted to even have him deported to the UAE to face imprisonment in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; which prohibits the imprisonment of individuals for the ‘inability to fulfil contractual obligations’; and contrary to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions which forbids incarceration over debt. Robert is the victim of the UAE’s Interpol abuse, a victim of Interpol’s own negligence, and a victim of HSBC’s ruthless utilisation these two factors.

“There is no reason why Robert should not be allowed to come home, there never was a reason; but at this moment, he is still facing the possibility of wrongful arrest and arbitrary detention. The British government must urgently intervene with Ukrainian authorities to ensure that Robert can finally be returned to his home and family.”

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