DUBAI // The decree by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, to exempt Emiratis from prosecution over bounced cheques was a life-changing moment for Jad Al Qubati.
The edict of October last year freed hundreds of Emiratis from prison time and meant no one would face the threat of prosecution again.
“When I heard the news I felt free again,” said Mr Al Qubati, 33. “My chains were finally broken and I felt I had more room to breathe again.”
With the pressure from his Dh5 million debt off, he immediately quit his job and enrolled back in school.
“I was no longer limited by the banks and could make the career change I wanted,” Mr Al Qubati said.
He stopped making his monthly payments to the bank. “I want them to take me to court because I know the courts will rule in favour of lessening my debt.”
Mr Al Qubati, victim of a scammer, claims the bank threatened to confiscate any homes or land he owned, but found he had nothing to seize.
“They don’t have me on a leash any more and are telling me they will wait until I find another job – that it is OK if I can’t make the payments now,” he said.
He claims a local bank gave him a personal and commercial loan for a total of Dh2.5m, and that the other Dh2.5m of the debt came from interest and penalty fees.
He said bank salesmen appeared outside his job every morning trying to sell loans.
“I am disgusted with the banking sector,” Mr Al Qubati said. “They ruin Emirati lives and futures. The banks will do anything to give Emiratis a loan.
“They prey on young Emiratis and constantly stalk them to get them into debt.”
Before the decree, Mr Al Qubati had to work two jobs to pay the monthly instalments that swallowed 75 per cent of his salary.
One was in the public sector, which he longed to quit, and the other in the private sector.
“I was working day and night, stuck in a job I didn’t like from 7am to 3pm and a second from 4pm to 11pm every day, including weekends.”
Mr Al Qubati continued this routine for years and says he would have had to keep it up for another 20 to pay the debt.
“I was trapped in a wheel of debts with no way out and was in constant fear that if I didn’t make the payments, I would be jailed like so many others,” he said.
Mr Al Qubati’s plunge into debt began in the boom year of 2007 when he was one of 2,500 people conned out of Dh400m by an investment scam dubbed “the case of the non-existent wallet”.
Promised monthly profits of 30 to 40 per cent, he borrowed the Dh2.5m to invest in what he thought was a sound project.
“A lot of the business here is based on trust and close relationships. Since I was dealing with a reputable Emirati businessman who gave me a security cheque, I felt safe.”
The cheque turned out to be bogus and, after the scam was revealed, Mr Al Qubati received only 15 per cent of his total investment back.