x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fraud cases put UAE at top of list for Interpol

More than two-thirds of Interpol warrants issued by the UAE stem from fraud cases, according to the international crime organisation's online records.

More than two-thirds of Interpol warrants issued by the UAE stem from fraud cases, according to the international crime organisation's online records.

About 150 of the country's 211 "red notices" seek arrest for fraudulent activity, making it the highest issuer of Interpol warrants in the Gulf.

Some observers say the high number of fraud warrants may be attributable partly to the criminal treatment of bounced cheques in the UAE and bankruptcy laws that sometimes impose criminal penalties for business failures.

Radha Stirling, a UK lawyer who represents a number of UAE expatriates, said while she had seen a change in how banks treated consumers who bounced cheques, "we are still seeing a lot of business disputes that are turning criminal rather than being dealt with as civil matters". Her firm recently said on its website that a number of people from the UAE were "approaching us with Interpol red notices against them".

Interpol's red notices are requests to all of the organisation's 188-member states seeking the arrest of those suspected of criminal activity.

The UAE is one of the world's heaviest users of the government-issued notices. It comes in 11th in the world in the total number of notices, despite ranking about 120th in population. It is also by far the most-frequent issuer of Interpol warrants in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia, which has 67 red notices, has about four times the UAE's population.

It is unclear, however, whether the number of red notices from the UAE has increased since the financial crisis. Interpol did not comment. It is also unclear how effective Interpol warrants have been in bringing people to justice.

Australia last week passed an extradition treaty with the UAE, giving the Emirates the right to seek to have fugitives returned for prosecution. But Ms Stirling, who lobbied Australian officials not to pass the treaty, said it was unlikely to affect people wanted for financial crimes and business disputes because of the time and money involved in getting an extradition granted.

The UK has a similar treaty but no one has been successfully extradited since its passage in 2008.

Whether or not treaties are effective, though, the high number of Interpol warrants from the UAE may be symptomatic of the need for change in bankruptcy and bounced-cheque laws. Already, Dubai has set up a special court to handle bounced cheque cases related to property transactions. And leaders have said recently that reforms to bankruptcy laws were high on the agenda as the UAE tried to preserve its reputation as a business friendly enclave in the Middle East.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai's Supreme Fiscal Committee and of Emirates Airline, in May said implementing better bankruptcy laws was "a policy priority".

 

afitch@thenational.ae