Desperate Russian cancer victim held hostage in Dubai over debt.
Bika, 49 and a 25 year resident of Dubai decided to open a bakery in JBR, an upmarket area in Dubai. Bika, originally from Dagestan in Russia, chose a commercial real estate agent called Salwan LLC, a subsidiary of Dubai Properties. This was not Bika’s first business (she ran a successful beauty salon for 17 years) so she knew to check contracts carefully and spend within her means. Almost immediately after moving in, Salwan LLC told her she needed to make expensive modifications including adding air conditioning and a fire alarm system, even though the property already had these in place. Bika was told she could only use approved contractors, who turned out to be unprofessional and only turned up sporadically. The job took 6 months and this meant Bika’s bakery was not ready by the agreed date, for which Bika was fined a further AED 80,000 on top of the AED 150,000 she had already invested. The bakery never opened. Salwan told Bika they would not renew her lease and they even charged her another AED 36,000 to close down her business. Bika was forced to sell her other business to cover the loans and the stress caused her health to deteriorate, culminating in needing surgery to remove a kidney. Bika owes AED 117,000 ($US31,854). It is money she can never pay. She is unable to get a work visa because of the debt judgments against her. She is also not allowed to leave the UAE until the debt is paid. She survives earning tiny amounts of money doing freelance nail treatments. Her mother, Tamara passed away in 2020 at the age of 81. Heartbroken Bika was denied the chance to return to Russia to see her when she was ill, or to attend the funeral when Tamara died this month. Bika’s health has declined further, she developed cancer in 2015 and her condition is life threatening. She needs an expensive hysterectomy operation to survive. A surgery she could have had in Russia, but does not have the money for in Dubai. Her last hope is a letter she has sent to Sheikh Mohammed, begging him to save her life by letting her return to Russia. She does not hold out much hope. Radha Stirling, CEO of human rights group Detained in Dubai issued the following statement: “There is no benefit to Dubai to allow this desperate woman to die because she can’t afford to pay a few thousand dollars. Through no fault of her own, this businesswoman fell victim to the greed and mismanagement of one of Dubai’s biggest property companies. “She has lost the chance to say goodbye to her mother, she has lost her health, she has lost her money. Bika has lost everything, and it seems that Dubai won’t be happy until they have her life too. “Expats in Dubai need to be very aware of the dangers of being held in the country when circumstances force them into debt. There are many expats who have been stuck there for decades, living on charity of strangers and with no chance of ever leaving. “If the country wants to develop as a tourism and business hub, there needs to be a serious overhaul of the archaic debt laws. While such little respect is shown for a human being’s life, no foreigner can feel safe in Dubai. “We have contacted the Russian Embassy and the UAE’s Ambassador to Russia to appeal for assistance, but there is no sign of any assistance for this poor woman. We urge the UAE authorities to review this case and help Bika get home for her surgery”.