UAE legal abuse and wrongful convictions in absentia, Interpol and licensing repercussions amongst financial and legal professionals abroad, and outright business theft. What can be done in response?
The dangers of investing and doing business in Dubai have been published worldwide, particularly since the country itself essentially went bankrupt during the global financial crisis of 2008. Expats left their sports cars at the airport, abandoned their properties and investments, to avoid the real possibility of being jailed or held in the country for the downward spiral effect of the economic downturn. Over the past ten years, Detained in Dubai, an international organisation and legal advisory has dealt with thousands of cases of foreigners who have been wrongfully accused of embezzlement, breach of trust and fraud as well as countless individuals who have been jailed over bounced cheques and debts.
Radha Stirling, the organisation’s CEO and UAE judicial expert in European and US courts, has specialised in the legal abuse of investors and professionals, having handled a number of high profile financial crime cases including Safi Qarashi, Matt Joyce, Marcus Lee, Nico Consari, Mohammad Haddad and David Haigh. Stirling said “the UAE remains one of the world’s riskiest places to invest. We have seen hundreds of millions of dollars blatantly stolen from the hands of foreign investors, usually through false allegations of misconduct that lead to a local business partner being able to seize entire companies and personal wealth, often leading to the incarceration of unsuspecting foreigners who have no way to defend themselves in the country’s undeveloped and corrupt legal system. This is a country where an accusation alone is sufficient to secure a conviction.”
With foreigners more aware of UAE judicial issues and corruption, many remain until they become suspicious that they may be subject to false allegations. If they sense something is wrong, they may leave the country and try to resolve any issues from the safety of their home country. In these situations, it is practically impossible to defend any criminal allegations and many are unfairly convicted in absentia, on hearsay alone.
A conviction means that they will be unable to return to the UAE without facing immediate arrest leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to any potential civil litigation claims; Their businesses, shares and assets are open to theft by former business partners or vengeful and greedy opponents. They will also likely be subject to an Interpol Red Notice, branding them as a fugitive, again, in the absence of evidence. Stirling has written extensively about the practice of “Interpol Abuse” and has lobbied Interpol to instal checks and balances to prevent frivolous reporting. As if these shenanigans were insufficient, disgruntled parties who have secured wrongful convictions against professionals regulated by financial or legal bodies, have maliciously reported the conviction to the regulators. In such cases, the victim faces a suspension of their practicing licence and severe personal and professional consequences with seemingly no recourse. Ms Stirling commented “The ramifications of a conviction in absentia in the UAE are not limited to the gulf region. It is disturbing to see just how many people have been severely affected by Interpol abuse and through regulatory bodies covering the finance and legal industries. Neither Interpol, nor regulatory bodies, should be taking convictions in absentia from the UAE into account. The UAE does not require proof to secure a conviction and this fundamental element is the basis of any credible judiciary.
“I have just returned from a hearing at the ACCA in London to defend a suspension request based on a frivolous conviction in absentia. Fortunately, my client’s license was not revoked but it was not an easy fight. My client had a business in Ras Al Khaimah with two other British partners. When he offered to buy the shares of one of the partners, for a very generous price, the partner agreed and they met to discuss the offer. Shortly thereafter, the partner made an allegation that my client had tried to “steal” his shares and opened a criminal complaint and on the basis of his verbal statement, my client was arrested. Between the parties, they agreed to mediate and to only resort to the use of commercial courts if an agreement was not possible.
“The partner had other plans though and fabricated a second criminal complaint for embezzlement while my client was outside of the country, resulting in a conviction in absentia. The criminal complaint has been used by the partner as a tool to try to extort funds from my client, more than he would have been able to achieve through mediation or civil litigation.
“The partner went so far as to inform the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) of the conviction and had hoped to have my client’s license revoked, again, to exert unreasonable pressure on my client to settle for inequitable sums.”
Ms Stirling, who is also joint managing partner of law firm Stirling Haigh, has been representing clients in hostile situations since 2008. She has appeared as an expert for the defence in extradition cases across Europe and in civil litigation cases in Europe and the United States. She has been assisting clients in removing their Interpol Red Notices and helping them seek retribution for their grievances. Stirling said “in many cases, victims of injustice are unaware that there may be avenues available for them to seek remedy against UAE accusers and claimants, either through tactical strategy in the UAE or through the jurisdiction of foreign courts. For example, the US and the UK have a reciprocal enforcement agreement for commercial judgments and the UAE counterpart can potentially be sued in a foreign court and an order then enforced within the UAE. Furthermore, in cases of wrongdoing, where extortion or other crimes have been committed against them in the UAE, the offending party may be subject to private prosecution in the United Kingdom, meaning the next time they enter the country, they could also be arrested and brought to justice. It is not always hopeless and the world’s courts have become more accessible to foreign disputes in recent years. In some cases, the mere realisation that there are such avenues available, has been sufficient pressure to encourage an antagonistic party to resign to resolving a dispute amicably.
« In my client’s matter, now that we have resolved the ACCA hearing, we intend to use the civil courts in Dubai to prove my client has acted with integrity. Once a favourable judgment is obtained, it can be used to overturn the criminal conviction that was secured without evidence. The partner in this matter will face criminal complaints for bribery and extortion in the UAE and private prosecution in the UK. It is time that victims of legal abuse fight back and let hostile parties know that false allegations and dirty tricks have real world consequences. They can no longer ‘get away with it’ and should not feel protected by the UAE’s impaired legal system.”