Miami woman detained in Dubai for starting her own accountancy business “suffered racism”.
Updated: Jan 12, 2022
Miami accountant Danielle Jeffries, 58, is the latest American to face the Dubai justice system where she’s been sentenced to jail, a hefty fine and deportation for crimes she didn’t commit.
After a 25 year long career in finance, Danielle wanted some international experience, Dubai looked like a good market and an interesting challenge so in 2015, after much consideration, she packed her bags and headed to the desert city.
The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School undergraduate, had worked with the top names in finance, like Deloitte and KPMG, but welcomed a change from her US lifestyle. She started out working with a local accountancy owned by an Australian woman who arranged her work visa in the Emirates, but Danielle’s goal was to have her own practice once settled in. A couple of years passed and it was time to make her dreams come true.
Danielle gave notice to her employer and hired a Public Relations Officer (PRO) which in the UAE, is not a marketing agent, but a liaison with the public sector. She needed him to apply for her business trading license and an investor visa to switch from her employment status. She was travelling between the UAE and the United States on a frequent basis and so her PRO suggested she provide him with a Power of Attorney (POA), as is common in the UAE.
“Expats need to be aware that they can be held criminally responsible for any mistakes made by a third party holding a POA. This document cannot be taken lightly and has been the cause of innumerable convictions”, said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who is representing Ms Jeffries.
Danielle had advised the PRO on exactly what she needed, but told him not to submit any applications to the government until after she left her job. Perhaps over zealously, to expedite his workload or be paid faster, he applied for the trade license prematurely.
Quite quickly, the PRO was notified that Danielle was still on her employment visa and the request was illegal without an “NOC” or No Objection Certificate from her employer.Rather than waiting for Danielle’s employment to terminate, the PRO decided he would forge the document. He just wanted the job done and chances were, it would just slip through.
The PRO and Danielle were hauled down to the police station and their passports confiscated pending an investigation that was initiated by her former employer.
The PRO admitted to police that he processed the application early, without Danielle’s knowledge. “At this point, Danielle’s passport was returned to her and she was told she would be a witness”, Stirling commented, “But then things became convoluted. The PRO changed his story and now accused Danielle of creating the NOC, something she adamantly denies. In fact, Danielle’s former employer acknowledged in an earlier email exchange that the PRO was not only responsible for the forgery. The subsequent civil and criminal cases appear to have been filed in an attempt to prevent Danielle from starting her own company; something Danielle feels may have been racially motivated.”