x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Indian fiance's one-year jail ordeal despite paying debt

Troubles began when former sales supervisor lost his job.

DUBAI // Mustak Mahboob had planned to marry Candy Babig, his girlfriend, in January this year.

Instead, he ended the month in jail, locked up for an unpaid rental car bill and defaulting on his credit card payments.

And it is there the 31-year-old Indian sales supervisor remains, nearly a year later, despite having paid off his debt as he awaited the outcome of the case against him for absconding from his former employers.

Mahboob's troubles began when he was made redundant in 2009. He remained out of work for six months, running up debts until he eventually accepted a Dh4,000-a-month job at a computer products company.

The job did not go smoothly, with grievances between him and the company. By November last year, he says, the company had stopped paying him due to what he believes were unfair complaints.

"I begged the owner to pay me," Mahboob said. "I later told him that it was better for me to leave."

Again without income, Mahboob's debts caught up with him. On January 9, police arrested him outside his home over a credit card debt and took him to Bur Dubai Police station. On January 17, he was transferred to Al Riffa - over another credit card debt - and then the Muraqqabat police station - over a car hire debt.

Mahboob was told he would get bail after his fiancee, a 34-year-old Filipina sales executive, handed his passport in to the Dubai Court. However, on January 23, police said they could not release him because, in his absence, his employer had filed an absconding case against him, and asked the Ministry of Labour to ban him from working. The same day, Mahboob was sentenced to 23 days in jail for the car rental debt.

"I had no intention and did not run away and answered their phone calls," Mahboob said.

Ms Cabig had no idea her fiance had financial problems until he called her from jail in January.

The employer told Ms Cabig it would withdraw the absconding case if she handed over about Dh22,000 - an initial Dh10,000 for the ministry's fee and Dh12,000 to repay a salary advance and pay for a colleague's mobile phone that he had borrowed and not returned.

It took Ms Cabig three weeks to raise the money by selling her jewellery, mobile phone and other items. But when she handed over the second instalment of the cash on February 7, she was told the firm would not be withdrawing its case against Mahboob. It gave her back the ministry fee.

The owner of the company, who declined to be named, said the actions taken had been a last resort. "We always paid him his salary but he had deductions. He had so many absences - he was not coming to the office and switched off his mobile phone."

He said the company had tried to withdraw the case after receiving the money from Ms Cabig, but "we were told that my company would be banned [from getting work permits] for a certain period".

The car rental company also told the employer about Mahboob's debt with them. "They came to us [Mahboob's former employer] because he wasn't answering their calls and didn't know were he lived," he said.

So desperate was Ms Cabig to get her fiance out of jail, she fell prey to a scam, paying Dh10,000 in May to an Arab man who offered to help. Instead, he disappeared with the original copy of a receipt for Mahboob's passport - which she will need to get it back.

"We need to get his passport back," she said. "I really hope he will have a chance to work again. The wedding can wait."

rruiz@thenational.ae