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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

U.S. grandfather trapped in Dubai for ten years over debts he doesn’t owe and can never pay

Updated: Mar 3

Grandfather, Bruce Strickland, calls on US government to help him get home.
Missouri /California grandfather trapped in Dubai for ten years over mainly debts he doesn’t owe and can never pay.

Man jailed and detained in Gulf nation with no hope of ever returning home to his family in the USA, over mainly false debts.

Trapped for life

58 year old Bruce Strickland has 3 grandchildren he has never met, has lost both of his parents, unable to attend their funerals, and is surviving on his wits.

Brother Duane explains how the racism of the UAE legal system, and Bruce’s unscrupulous former business partners have kept him living on handouts, renting a rat infested room in the UAE, away from his wife and 6 grown up children.

“My brother can never leave the UAE unless he finds AED 3,300,000 (£647,790) to pay them. An impossible feat for a man neither legally allowed to work in the UAE, nor allowed to leave the country.

“13 years ago Bruce was a highly skilled, and highly paid HR manager at Dubai airport. He lost this job and the lack of wages left him in financial difficulty. He could not keep up loan and credit card payments, but rather than skip the country like many expats in the same position, Bruce stayed and tried to find new employment. He wasn’t able to do so in time and served a two year sentence for missed payments.

“When Bruce was released, determined to make money to repay his debts, he started a consultant and events company with his wife Stephanie.

“My brother agreed to partner with a Singaporean international events company and launch a fashion show in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

“It was this duplicitous company that ruined Bruce’s chances of paying the debts, and was to condemn my brother to a life of poverty in a country he can now never leave.

False invoice

Bruce and the company agreed to split all losses and profits according to their agreement 70/30 in Bruce’s favour. And any large expenses had to be agreed on in advance. They had a contract to that effect. My brother is a very intelligent man. Naturally he made sure there was a solid contract.

“The show broke even. No profit but no loss.

“Then out of nowhere the events company presented him with an invoice for AED 1.5 million (£296,400 or $408,400) for a website they had built.

“That’s crazy. Bruce never knew anything about any website, and would never have agreed to spending such a huge amount.

“He fought it in court naturally, but the courts treated him with the worst racism either of us have ever heard of. An open and shut case, with a clear contract and they decided he owed the money.

“They treat him with open racism. They keep giving his nationality as ‘African’ in documents and papers. Africa is not a country of course. When he corrects the police or court staff, they snicker among themselves and say they will change it back to ‘American’ as though he was being petty and unreasonable.”

Can’t work, can’t leave

After legal fees and court costs, Bruce officially owes AED 3 million. He is not allowed to work, as people with open police cases can’t get visas. Nor will he ever be allowed to leave the UAE and work elsewhere while the debt exists.

“According to the law, my brother will die in the UAE,” continues Duane. “He is reliant on charity and whatever the family is able to send him for food and to rent a room in the cheapest part of the UAE.

“God forbid he should need any kind of medical help. He has zero access to healthcare with his current status.

“Sheikh Mohammed, our family is begging you to let my brother come home to his wife, children and grandchildren. Please, set my brother free.”

Radha Stirling

Human rights advocate Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai gave the following statement. “What is happening to Bruce is sadly commonplace, despite the fact that Bruce has been put into a situation where he can’t work, and can never pay the money. Money he doesn’t actually owe.


“The UAE values money above all else and unfortunately the life of one black American family man bears no significance in this nonsensical legal system.

“We urge the UAE government to reconsider Bruce’s case, and to allow him home to his family. We also urge an overhaul of the legal system so that victims like Bruce Strickland have access to justice and the protection of bankruptcy laws when there is clearly no money for alleged creditors to claim.”


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